By Marquis Cooley | Sports Editor
No. 5 Baylor women’s basketball clinched an outright Big 12 championship on senior day for the first time in 11 years after demolishing Texas Tech University 82-57 on Sunday afternoon at the Ferrell Center. It’s Baylor’s 12th-consecutive regular-season conference championship and 13th overall.
“I’m just really proud of how we’re playing right now,” head coach Nicki Collen said. “Not just the championship, but how we’re playing and how we’re playing unselfishly and sharing the ball. I just think we’re hard to play against right now.”
It was career-day for senior forward NaLyssa Smith in her last game at the Ferrell Center, scoring a career-high 35 points to go with 12 rebounds for her 21st double-double of the season and 49th of her career, both of which are second in program history. Smith also now holds the program record for most rebounds in a single season by a senior with 350. Smith’s performance got her a standing ovation from the crowd.
“It was great,” Smith said. “You see it happen all the time in the past, and it was finally for me and all the other seniors. It was heartfelt and you’re not going to feel that a lot. So, I’m glad I got to experience it at Baylor.”
Junior guard Jaden Owens was the only other Bear to reach double-figures, scoring 13 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting with three coming from behind the arc. Senior center Queen Egbo finished with eight points and five rebounds before fouling out late in the game, while senior forward Caitlin Bickle had six points, six assists and four rebounds. Graduate student Jordan Lewis added five points and six assists.
The Bears (25-5, 15-3 Big 12) dominated the Red Raiders (11-18, 4-14 Big 12) from start to finish as Smith scored 16 points in the first quarter to give Baylor a 23-10 lead by the end of the period. The Bears refused to let up in the second quarter, connecting on four triples to out-score Tech 22-12 and take a 45-22 lead into halftime.
At the halftime break, Smith had just as many points as Tech did with 22. Baylor was able to hold the Red Raiders to just 33% from the floor and 13% from deep, while out-rebounding them 21-12.
Not much changed in the second half as Baylor continued to spread the ball on offense leading to 24 assists on 32 made buckets, securing the 82-57 victory.
Next up for Baylor is the Big 12 Tournament. The Bears will have a first-round bye and face the winner between Texas Tech and Oklahoma State University (8-19, 3-15 Big 12) in a quarterfinal game at 1:30 p.m. Friday at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
“We don’t talk a lot about what our seed is going to be or anything like that,” Collen said. “I just want to be playing good basketball in March, and I’ve said that from the beginning that we were going to be better in March than we were in November because I believe that, I wholeheartedly believe that.”