By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer
Baylor women’s basketball returned to the Ferrell Center after a one-game road trip, and they did so in strong fashion, beating Oklahoma State 70-51. The win marks Baylor’s 10th in a row, keeping them atop the Big 12 standings.
The Lady Bears were led by junior forward NaLyssa Smith who scored 20 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked three shots. Smith was far from Baylor’s only contributor, as guard DiJonai Carrington posted a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Not to be outdone, guard DiDi Richards dished out 11 assists, as many as Oklahoma State’s entire team. Richards’ striking assist numbers are aided by the talent around her, and she knows it’s part of her role to keep her teammates involved.
“That’s what’s good about this team,” Richards said. “At any given time someone can be hot. You just have to figure out which one is hot at the time and be able to give them the ball in their shooting time.”
While the final score indicated a significant win for the Lady Bears, the game didn’t start as a blowout. Early on, Oklahoma State was winning the turnover battle and beating Baylor in the open court. Players like OSU’s Natasha Mack, who went for 18 points and 18 rebounds in this one, are tough for any team to defend. The ‘Pokes have continued to surprise this season, but Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey wasn’t caught off guard by their toughness.
“Give a little credit to Oklahoma State,” Mulkey said. “You’re playing a team that’s fighting for second, third place in the league. A good team, well coached team. A team that just has my utmost respect because of what they’ve done all year. Picked eighth in our conference, and look where they are.”
Despite shooting just 36% in the first quarter, Baylor went to halftime with a 14-point lead. That lead was built entirely in the last four minutes and 48 seconds of the half, when Baylor went on a 16-0 run. That run was fueled largely by Smith, Carrington and the passing skill of Richards. During the run, Smith scored eight points, only two less than Oklahoma State scored in the entire quarter.
The Lady Bears continued to build on their lead in the third quarter, pushing the margin to as high as 20. In the third, Baylor saw more contributions from their bench, as the reserve unit scored eight points to OSU’s goose egg in the quarter. Baylor was also able to capitalize on their second chance opportunities, getting seven seconds chance points in the third alone. The dominance continued in the turnover column, as the Lady Bears outscored Oklahoma State off of turnovers as well.
The fourth quarter was no less impactful than its predecessors, as Baylor went on another huge tear to keep OSU out of striking distance. This time, the run was 14-2 in just under four minutes of play. That kind of explosive scoring is dangerous for opponents, and it’s a large part of why Baylor is close to clinching a share of their 11th conference title in the past 21 years, six more titles than any other Big 12 team.
As nice as banners are, the Lady Bears can hardly afford to get ahead of themselves. Instead, their minds are on their next game, an 11 a.m. contest with K-State Saturday in the Ferrell Center. The game is set to be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.