Bears survive Bobcats in women’s basketball season opener

By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor, Video by Joe Pratt, Broadcast Reporter

Baylor women’s basketball survived a late comeback attempt from a scrappy Texas State University team and three-point shooting struggles to win their season opener 77-70 Tuesday night in the Ferrell Center. The free throw disparity was the difference, as the Bears knocked down 21 of them while the Bobcats only attempted eight. Nevertheless, head coach Nicki Collen said the scoreboard would’ve looked vastly different if one player stepped up and made their 3-pointers.

“The doors get blown off if someone steps up and makes a three,” Collen said. “I mean, we have to shoot it better than 4-25, because they were good looks, and all of a sudden it becomes a lot harder to help [defense] when we make those. And those are good shooters taking good shots.”

The Bears (1-0) were plagued with shooting woes early on, shooting just 38% from the floor (8-21) and 25% from the three (3-12) in the first quarter despite getting open looks with their ball movement. Even with the shooting struggles, Baylor’s stout defense allowed them to jump out to a 22-7 lead by the end of the period, holding TSU’s field goal percentage to 25% (3-12).

The Bears and Bobcats traded buckets early in the second quarter as TSU began to heat up from the field. After stretching the lead out to 19, a Baylor scoring drought in the last 3:21 of the half allowed TSU to cut the margin down to 14 points after a buzzer beater from TSU’s senior guard Kennedy Taylor.

Baylor went into halftime with a 38-24 advantage over TSU. Junior guard Jaden Owens provided a spark off the bench scoring eight points while also knocking down half of Baylor’s 3-pointers before the intermission. As a team however, the Bears couldn’t connect from deep, shooting only 4-17 from behind the arc. Senior forward NaLyssa Smith said when the team is struggling with the three-ball, and they have to find other ways to score points.

“I say it a lot in practice, ‘We can’t fall in love with the three.’ When we’re on we’re on, but when we’re off, we got to find different ways to score the ball because it can hurt us in the end,” Smith said. “Shooting that bad of a percentage from the three, it just shows a lot and we just got to find different ways to score the ball.”

Baylor came out aggressive to start the second half, going on a 6-0 run to start the third quarter. However, poor rotations and miscommunication on the defensive end of the floor allowed the Bobcats to get open opportunities and whittle the lead down to 13, forcing Collen to call a timeout as the TSU bench roared to their feet. The Bears came out of the break strong to finish the quarter and take a 62-47 edge heading into the fourth.

“I definitely think our defense was not where it should be tonight. I feel like we gave them a lot of clean, easy open looks. I feel like our rotations weren’t good. We weren’t helping each other out like we normally do and like we know how to,” Senior center Queen Egbo said. “Obviously when we watch film, we’re gonna find more things we didn’t do well, but just off the top of my head. I know that our defense wasn’t where it was supposed to be.”

Things began to get a little more physical in the final quarter as the Bobcats cut the margin to 11, but back-to-back and ones from Smith caused the Ferrell Center to erupt in cheer.

“We needed some energy,” Smith said. “If you can’t find energy within the team, it’s good to get it from the crowd. So just the crowd cheering and like the coaches cheering, everybody on their feet, it just helps you really want to dig into it and like get the win. Especially not for yourself but for everybody in the stands.”

Senior forward Da’Nasia Hood, who was the Bobcats’ leading scorer with 20, knocked down back-to-back threes to make it a six-point game with two minutes to go, and give TSU some life late into it. However, the Bears staved off the upset and held onto the win.

Collen said with the reputation Baylor brings, they’re going to get every team’s best shot and wind up in situations like this if they don’t handle their business early on.

“We’re everybody’s Super Bowl,” Collen said. “They got a little momentum at the end and they got a little excited … they got nothing to lose. They’re not worried about whether they miss their seven shots previous to that. Hood struggled early and then got going and started cooking there at the end and a lot of it was just like what did she have to lose?”

Smith led the way with 23 points and seven rebounds, six of them coming in the fourth. Senior guard Jordan Lewis chipped in 14 points, while Egbo put up a double-double with 16 points and 11 boards.

Next up for the Bears is a matchup with the University of Texas at Arlington at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the College Park Center.

“They’re going to have a huge crowd,” Collen said. “They’ve been selling this game since we put it on the schedule, so it’s going to be a really good environment and it’ll be another challenge for our players.”