Women’s basketball brings home another Big 12 title

Baylor's DiDi Richards celebrates after winning an NCAA college basketball game against West Virginia in the final round of the Big 12 Conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo, Sunday, March 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

By Harper Mayfield | Sports Writer

Baylor women’s basketball added to its trophy case on Sunday, beating West Virginia 76-50 to secure yet another Big 12 tournament title.

In the box score, the Lady Bear effort was spearheaded by junior center Queen Egbo, who posted a monster double double of 18 points and 11 rebounds, not to mention five blocks. Senior guard Moon Ursin also had a strong day putting up 12 points to go with 10 rebounds. The team as a whole shot effectively from all areas of the floor, hitting half of their field goal attempts, over 37% of their threes, and 70% of their free throws. Egbo’s level of play has jumped up a couple notches during tournament season, and that boost is coming at just the right time for the Lady Bears.

“I feel like this is when you want to start seeing results, seeing your hard work pay off,” Egbo said. “I feel like this is what my team needs, and they need this on a consistent basis, and I feel like this is only going to make me better, make us better and make my teammates better when I’m playing well.”

Leading scorer NaLyssa Smith dealt with foul trouble for most of the game, but Baylor was still able to excel in her absence.

“We have depth,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “I wasn’t surprised that we spread the lead. [Caitlin] Bickle’s got enough experience and minutes. That’s not a surprise. That just tells you that we’re pretty good.”

Both Baylor and West Virginia play very physical, defensive-minded styles of basketball, and that takes a toll on both players and their opponents over the course of a game, especially in a tournament scenario. As tired as the Lady Bears were, Mulkey was encouraged by the way they persevered.

“Fatigue set in with both teams,” Mulkey said. “I’m not surprised because of the type of defense that both teams played the last two days and today. It happens. We just were able to weather the fatigue.”

Where Baylor didn’t weather fatigue quite so well was the turnover battle. The Lady Bears gave the ball away 16 times, one more than West Virginia’s 15. The Mountaineers were unable to capitalize on Baylor’s turnover woes, only scoring 13 points off of those missteps. The Lady Bears, on the other hand, got a good chunk of their offense from aggressive defense, generating 22 points off turnovers.

The first quarter began in a hotly contested back-and-forth, as neither team could gather much of a lead. With just under two and a half minutes to play in the quarter, Baylor led by just two points. A quick 7-0 run orchestrated by Ursin and guard DiJonai Carrington helped restore the Lady Bear lead and keep West Virginia out of striking distance. At the end of one, Baylor was on top 21-12.

The second quarter was defined by runs, as West Virginia was, at times, as close as five points, but was also as far behind as 12. As stats go, Baylor and WVU were even just about everywhere. No one team had a strong advantage in any category. Baylor did shoot just over six percent better from the floor in the quarter, and that helped them maintain their double digit lead entering halftime. At the break, the Lady Bears were still going strong, leading 38-28.

Baylor opened the third on a 5-0 run, pushing the lead to 15, the largest it had been to that point in the game. In the third, the Baylor bench began to separate itself from the Mountaineer second unit. The Lady Bear reserves scored six points in the third, while holding the WVU bench scoreless. Strong defense and interior play helped Baylor hold tight to their lead, and they entered the fourth with a 52-42 advantage.

Baylor ran away from the Mountaineers in the fourth. Baylor shot over 57% from the floor and just under 67% from downtown. A monster 12-0 run to end the quarter showed just how much Baylor had left in the tank even after a hard-fought game like this one. At the final buzzer, Baylor was crowned Big 12 tournament champions, bringing home the trophy and a 76-50 win.

Baylor will next see the court for the NCAA tournament following the announcement of the field Monday night.