By Jeffrey Swindoll
The Lady Bears won their fourth straight regular season conference title after beating the Iowa State Cyclones (20-9, 9-9) 70-54 Tuesday night in Ames, Iowa. The title is shared with No. 7 West Virginia. It is only the Mountaineers’ second year in the Big 12 conference, and they are already sharing the title with one of the most elite college programs in women’s basketball today.
After a heartbreaking loss to West Virginia (16-2, 27-3) on Sunday, the No. 9 Lady Bears (26-4, 16-2) were forced to get right back on the road and prepare for another conference game just two days after their first home loss in four years. The Lady Bears started the game with a convincing 11-1 run in the first 5 minutes.
Senior guard Odyssey Sims scored 39 points on Sunday, but failed to bounce back in the first half on Tuesday. Iowa State held Sims scoreless in the first half for the first time all season.
The matchups favored Sims. She had superior speed and agility against ISU and scored 24 last time the two teams met. Her quickness was not the issue against the Cyclones this time. It was Sims’ shooting that resulted in an overall poor outing on Tuesday. She ended the night shooting 4-for-16, making only one three-pointer. Both are categories she usually excels in.
Out of all the Lady Bear players, a freshman ended up being the one to pick up the slack for Sims Freshman forward Nina Davis led all scorers in the first half with 11 points in the first half, making it her seventh time scoring in double figures in the first half this season. Davis continued carrying the load for the Lady Bears despite Sims’ night to forget in the second half as well.
In their last meeting, Baylor put the game away already in the first half with a commanding double-digit lead. That game ended up being a huge win for the Lady Bears and a chance for Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey to rest the starters.
This game gave Mulkey no reason to rest her starters. The top seed for the Big 12 tournament was on the line, and the Cyclones were making their shots this time around. At halftime, the Lady Bears led only by 31-24.
Mulkey prompts her team to rebound and minimize the amount of turnovers to grind out wins on the road. The Lady Bears succeeded in out-rebounding ISU, but were not careful enough with the ball on the road, edging out the Cyclones only 13-14 in turnovers.
ISU’s shooting improved from their last game against Baylor. The Cyclones’ star players Nikki Moody and Hallie Christofferson both scored in double figures. Moody made 4 of her 6 baskets from three-point territory, and Christofferson went 6-for-10 in the paint. Iowa State shot below 36 percent overall.
Junior post Sune Agbuke anchored the Lady Bears’ presence on the boards with 11 rebounds and nine points. Davis not only led in scoring with 26 points, but also grabbed nine rebounds– just one short of another double-double. Overall, Baylor dominated in rebounds, 48-32 over ISU.
The Cyclones stayed alive in this game because of their three point shooting. Without that, ISU could have been down and out early just like they were in Waco a week ago. It was only in the final stretch of the game on Tuesday that the Lady Bears really pulled ahead to solidify their win, and the number one seed.
The Big 12 is a basketball powerhouse this year, and the conference tournament tip-off for the women is this Friday.
The Lady Bears start their post-season run at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Oklahoma City, Okla. The opponent of that game is to be determined between Texas Tech and Kansas State. The game will be on Fox Sports Network, and the entire tournament will be on Fox Sports’ family of TV networks.