By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor, Video by Joe Pratt | Broadcast Reporter
Despite the weather, 698 students filled the Bear Pit for the second-highest student turnout in program history as No. 9 Baylor women’s basketball bounced back with a major 75-63 win over No. 13 University of Texas, Friday night at the Ferrell Center. Head coach Nicki Collen said she was thankful for everyone that attended.
“They [the fans] got into it,” Collen said. “Anytime I raised my arms, the noise just went to a different level. So super, super grateful for them coming out and quite frankly, I’m grateful for everyone that came out tonight.”
Senior forward NaLyssa Smith had a game-high 25 points on a very efficient 10-for-12 clip to pair with eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Sarah Andrews did a little bit of everything on the floor, finishing with 17 points, seven rebounds, eight assists and five steals. Collen said she was happy with what she saw from Andrews.
“Super proud of Sarah,” Collen said. “If you watched Sarah a year ago in this series — I don’t know if she wasn’t ready or she just didn’t have an opportunity — but got very little run against Texas. And so to handle the ball as well as she did, to make plays that she made, to make some of the passes she made, she’s growing up.”
The energy of the Bear Pit seemed to light a spark under the Bears as they jumped out to a 23-15 lead by the end of the quarter. Smith was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field with eight points.
“I feel like we had so much energy today,” Smith said. “The students and the fans were just giving us a lot of momentum. So, we kind of wanted to win this game just for them.”
The Longhorns managed to bring it to within five late in the second quarter, but a three from Andrews got the crowd on their feet and gave Baylor a 42-34 lead headed into the break.
Junior guard Ja’Mee Asberry continued to punish the Longhorns for leaving her open from deep in the first half, shooting 4-of-8 from beyond the arc with 15 points. However, Asberry didn’t score anymore the rest of the way. Smith also got it going early, shooting a near perfect 6-of-7 from the field for 12 points.
The two teams continued to battle in the third quarter as the physicality increased. Several bodies hit the ground throughout the period as UT fought to bring it within three. However, a late quarter 8-0 run, surged the Bears ahead to a 56-45 lead going into the fourth.
“We just stayed poised,” Collen said. “We executed really well … We kept moving. We got some easy baskets and just kept it comfortable.”
Baylor was able to maintain the lead the rest of the way. A three from Smith, toward the end of the fourth quarter, gave the Bears their biggest lead of the night at 15 points, extinguishing any hope of a comeback.
In what is a rarity for college basketball, the Bears will head down to Austin for a rematch with Longhorns at 3 p.m. CT on Sunday. However, this situation is nothing new for Collen who hails from the WNBA.
“This is playoff basketball,” Collen said. “It’s play a game, see what you did well, see what you got to improve on, see where you can maybe take advantage of them when you didn’t, and do it all over again on Sunday. It just feels like a two game series. I know this isn’t normal for them, but this is normal to me.”