Just keep playing: Lady Bears clinch portion of conference title with win over K-State

Junior forward NaLyssa Smith helped the Lady Bears defeat Kansas State 85-49 in the Ferrell Center on Saturday, draining 16 points for the Lady Bears. Sarah Pinkerton | Photographer

Baylor women’s basketball continued their winning ways on Saturday, beating Kansas State 85-49 at the Ferrell Center. With this win, they clinched a share of another Big 12 title, their 11th-straight and 12th in 21 years.

At 19-2 on the season, with a 14-1 Big 12 record, Baylor still sits atop the conference. With three in-conference games remaining, the Lady Bears have secured at least a portion of this season’s Big 12 championship. With certain results, Baylor could secure the entirety of the title. Either way, this game was a meaningful one for the team’s senior leadership.

“I remember stepping on this campus and there were days I didn’t think I was going to make it,” said senior guard Moon Ursin. “Just homesick and sad. But I’m here now, it’s been a great four years and it was real emotional. I’ll be honest — I really couldn’t sleep last night. Excited, nervous, anxious, just all of it. I’ve been with these [girls] for four years, and Coach Mulkey. It’s hard to feel like these moments are coming to a close.”

Even a seasoned veteran like head coach Kim Mulkey was touched by the culmination of an extremely adverse season.

“It just hits you in that moment,” Mulkey said. “It’s such a simplistic statement, I think Dolly Parton said it.’ If you’re going to enjoy that rainbow you’re going to have to go through the rain.’ In 35 years of coaching, I have never coached under these circumstances. It’s scary, it’s frustrating, and yet I think of the kids that were in that corner over there with their championship hats on. They just kept playing. Whatever was asked of them they did it. They just kept playing.”

While one more trophy in Baylor’s already packed cabinet might not seem like much, Mulkey has a deep appreciation for how far the program has come.

“I think back to 2000, we were at the bottom of the Big 12 when we took this job,” Mulkey said. “We took baby steps, we celebrated every single thing. We celebrated when we couldn’t have a losing season. We celebrated when we beat our first ranked opponent. We celebrated when we won our first road game…When you step back and you think about what we’ve done in 21 years, coaches are not blessed to have that many great players come through a program.”

Against K-State, the Lady Bears were led by junior center Queen Egbo, who scored 19 points to go along with four rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Egbo was incredibly efficient in all phases of the game, shooting 7-9 from the field and 5-5 from the free throw line. Baylor got efficient nights from Ursin and junior forward NaLyssa Smith as well. Ursin scored 15 points on 6-11 shooting, while adding eight assists and five rebounds. Smith, Baylor’s leading scorer, put up 16 points with just four misses. Egbo’s strong night was greatly appreciated by her teammates, especially Ursin.

“Queen is a hard player to stop, hard player to guard, when she’s Queen,” Ursin said. “To get her going, it’s just as exciting to make the pass.”

The efficiency from Baylor’s leaders showed up in other portions of the game, too. The Lady Bears shot over 50% from the field throughout the game, and hit just under 43% of their shots from three point land. On the other end of the floor, Baylor held K-State to 33% from the floor, allowing the Wildcats just one quarter in which they shot above 38%.

As much as Baylor was able to celebrate tonight, their season is far from over. They’ll take the floor again at 6 p.m. Monday to face off with the Texas Longhorns in Austin at UT’s Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Special Events Center. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.