Lady Bears open conference play with road win over West Virginia

West Virginia guard Kirsten Deans (3) shoots while defended by Baylor center Hannah Gusters (20) and guard Sarah Andrews (24) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in Morgantown, W.Va. (AP Photo/Kathleen Batten)

By Will Chamblee | Sports Writer

Baylor women’s basketball bounced back with a 65-45 win over West Virginia on Thursday in the WVU Coliseum Thursday night.

Following a surprising loss to Arkansas on Sunday, the no. 7 Bears utilized a 24-point burst in the third quarter to blow by the Mountaineers. Senior guard DiJonai Carrington lead the game in scoring off the bench with 19 points in 26 minutes, providing the boost Baylor needed to surpass West Virginia.

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said the team’s inexperience was to blame for Sunday’s loss but that they would improve with more playing time.

“You’re gonna win some, you’re gonna lose some,” Mulkey said. “We’ve got a team that is young and inexperienced. They just need to play.”

Baylor looked inexperienced at times throughout the first half as West Virginia managed to stick with Bears early and were able to go into halftime tied 28-28. The Mountaineer’s star senior guard and leading scorer Kysre Gondrezick had a strong first half, scoring nine points. Gondrezick has averaged 23 points per game this season.

Mulkey identified the second quarter as a potential tipping point in the game. The Bears used a lineup consisting of mostly newcomers alongside experienced senior guard Moon Ursin, who Mulkey said held the team together during that stretch.

“We could’ve lost the game in the second quarter, with Carrington, Smith and Queen on the bench,” Mulkey said. “She [Ursin] was the returning player on the floor that was playing with a lot of confidence.”

Baylor came out of the break a different team, using a quick 9-0 run to pull away from West Virginia. Carrington came alive in the third quarter, scoring 14 of her 19 points, which Mulkey said was a major reason for Baylor’s success out of intermission.

“You become a much more confident basketball team when you can hit some perimeter shots,” Mulkey said. “[Carrington] hit some shots that relaxed everybody and gave us some confidence.”

The Bear’s defense also improved later in the game, as they held Gondrezick to zero points scored in the second half, and the Mountaineers to a measly six points in the fourth quarter.

“We just started playing our caliber of basketball,” Ursin said. “We started defending and that’s where it started at, on the defensive end. That got us going.”

With the win, Baylor claimed its first conference win of the season, as they seek to claim their 12th Big 12 championship.

“I think we bounced back well tonight,” Ursin said. “We still got things to work on, we still got a lot of shots to knock down, but we’re getting there. It’s one game at a time.”

Baylor will continue conference play next Monday against Texas Tech in the Ferrell Center. After a two-game road stretch, Mulkey said it will be good to return to Waco.

“It will be nice to be back home,” Mulkey said. “Any program would tell you, ‘heck yea we want to be back home’. This trip going back for three and a half hours will be a lot more pleasant after a victory.”

Monday’s game against Texas Tech will be at 6 p.m. and will be televised on ESPNU.