Smith’s 37 ushers Bears to 11th straight Big 12 Championship final

Senior forward NaLyssa Smith posted a monstrous 37 point, 11 rebound double-double on 50% from the floor to push the Bears over the Sooners for their 11th straight Big 12 Championship final. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Michael Haag | Sports Writer

No. 4 Baylor women’s basketball, hot off a scorching quarterfinal win, torched the University of Oklahoma 91-76 in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Tournament Saturday afternoon in the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.

In the contest, the Bears set a program record for 3-pointers made in a single season with 215, hitting seven against the Sooners to claim the feat Saturday. With the win, head coach Nicki Collen became the first first-year head coach to reach the championship game since 1997.

The outright Big 12 regular season champs were fueled by career-highs from senior forwards Nalyssa Smith and Caitlin Bickle. Smith posted a monstrous 37 point, 11 rebound double-double on 50% from the floor while Bickle scored 21 and grabbed six rebounds. Smith’s 37 is good for the second most points in Big 12 Championship history for semifinal games. It was also her 23rd double double of the season, tying Debbie Polk (1980-81) for most double-doubles in a single season.

The Bears (27-5, 15-3 Big 12) limited themselves to two turnovers, while forcing 13 from the Sooners (24-8, 12-6 Big 12). Baylor also being +23 in points off turnovers. Baylor set a Big 12 Championship record and tied a school record with the two turnover effort.

The only other Baylor player in double figures was senior center Queen Egbo, who notched 11 to pair with five rebounds, also denying two shots. Graduate transfer senior Jordan Lewis chipped in all over, putting up eight points, six assists and five rebounds.

Smith and Bickle set the tone early, both nearing double digits after the first quarter to the tune of a seven point lead. OU battled in the second period to bring them to a one point lead, but a couple layups and jumpers from Smith and Bickle gave the Bears a 47-40 lead going into intermission. Bickle put up 15 of her 21 points in the first half to help accomplish the career-high.

The third quarter saw a 14-point explosion from Smith, who had her way with the Sooner defense. The Bears extended their lead to 19 heading into the fourth. OU never cut the lead to anything less than 15 in the final period and Baylor held on to secure the 91-76 win.

The Bears will be back at it Sunday for the Big 12 Championship final, when they will play the winner of Saturday’s contest between No. 7 the University of Texas and No. 10 Iowa State University. The game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday in the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo. and can be watched on ESPN2 or Big 12 Now on ESPN+. Baylor swept the regular season series versus both the Longhorns (24-6, 13-5 Big 12) and the Cyclones (26-5, 14-4 Big 12).