Fourth quarter explosion boosts No. 10 WBB over WVU, 75-57

By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor

No. 10 Baylor women’s basketball churned out a 75-57 win over West Virginia University Saturday night in the Ferrell Center, thanks to a fourth quarter eruption in which the Bears scored 29 points.

After getting anything they wanted on offense in their 95-50 win over Kansas State University, scoring was at a premium this afternoon as Baylor (19-5, 9-3 Big 12) had just 46 points through three quarters.

“They [WVU] bothered us with their physicality,” head coach Nicki Collen said. “We went from a game against Kansas State where it was a very finesse game, we could spread it out and touch gaps and kick to shooters and we were making a lot of shots too, just kind of being uncomfortable … They play hard. They’re not dirty, they just play hard. They play really physical, and they make you uncomfortable.”

Senior forward NaLyssa Smith matched a career-high with 30 points, while also grabbing 12 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. It was Smith’s 16th double-double of the season, a mark that ties her for No. 10 all-time in program history for double-doubles in a single season. It was also the 44th double-double of her career, which is fourth in program history.

Senior center Queen Egbo also finished with a double-double, dropping 13 points and snagging 12 boards to go along with two blocks. Even though Egbo struggled to score, Collen said her ability to do the little things is a game changer.

“When we get energized Queen, we’re just a better basketball team,” Collen said. “It doesn’t all equate to baskets with her. It’s defensive presence, it’s rotating and blocking shots. It’s getting us extra possessions. It’s all the little things and a lot of times all the little things lead to scoring for her.”

Graduate guard Jordan Lewis was the only other Bear to reach double figures, scoring 18 points while dishing out six assists to go with five rebounds.

It was a defensive showdown in the first quarter, as both teams shot under 35% from the floor, WVU shooting 31% and Baylor shooting 32%. The Bears also struggled from the line in the opening period, making just 2-of-6. Despite that, Baylor found itself on top 14-13 at the end of the quarter thanks to a buzzer-beating put-back from senior forward Caitlin Bickle.

The Mountaineers (11-11, 4-8 Big 12) started the second quarter strong, going up 20-14 early in the period, but the Bears were able to battle back and take a 21-20 lead near the midpoint of the quarter. The two teams traded buckets the rest of the way as Baylor took a 29-28 lead heading into the intermission.

At the halftime break, Smith led all scorers with 13 points and five rebounds. Egbo also chipped in nine points and five rebounds in the first half of play. Baylor’s poor free throw shooting prevented them from extending the lead any further, connecting on just five of their 14 attempts in the first two quarters.

“We allowed our missed free throws to affect everything else,” Collen said. “You’re struggling, you missed some shots and then you go to the foul line, where you have a chance to separate, and then you miss all those. You could just see the collective sigh. It wasn’t one player, it was kind of everybody stepped up and missed theirs on their turn.”

Baylor jumped out to a 41-33 lead in the third quarter, but a quick 6-0 run from WVU made it a two-point game at the 2:26 mark of the period. The Bears were able to regroup following a timeout, going on a 5-0 run to gain momentum and take a 46-39 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Collen’s squad finally found their offensive rhythm in the fourth quarter, blowing the doors off a tightly contested match with an explosive 29-point final period. Baylor was able to stretch the margin to as much as 20 in the quarter, as if the imaginary lid that hindered them for the majority of the game had been lifted off the rim. Collen said a lot of it had to do with getting out in transition and getting their star player the ball.

“We found ways to get Liz [Smith] the ball,” Collen said. “We got her on the low block and let her play … we just did a better job getting her touches on the paint, attacking the basket [in a] straight line, not messing around too much. There was a kind of simplicity about playing downhill. I just really thought we played downhill in the fourth quarter.”

Smith said their will to win coming out of the half is what made the difference for them in this one.

“You sit back and think, ‘We’ve worked this hard, came this far,’ and you want to win,” Smith said. So, you adjust, start playing better, everybody starts playing collectively. We all just want to come out with a win.”

WVU head coach Mike Carey said Baylor is a tough matchup due to its talent, saying that the Bears are the most talented team in the conference, “bar none.”

“I don’t know if they’ll win the conference, but they’re the most talented team in the conference,” Carey said. “They got probably two first round draft choices on their team. Nobody else in our league has that.”

Baylor will look to utilize that talent in the pair of back-to-back games against Texas Christian University (6-15, 2-10 Big 12), with Baylor hosting the first meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Ferrell Center. The Horned Frogs are currently on a seven-game losing streak.