By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Strolling into halftime with an eight point lead over the University of the Incarnate Word, No. 18 Baylor women’s basketball appeared to be on the ropes. Senior forward Aijha Blackwell led the way through the first two quarters with 17 points on 8-10 from the floor. Only three other Bears had scored at all to that point, the next highest scorer having just five points.
But a third quarter that saw Baylor (2-0) outscore UIW (1-1) 24-7 began the trouncing that would become a 71-42 win Thursday evening in the Ferrell Center. Blackwell finished with 23 points on 10-14 shooting to go with 10 boards. It was Blackwell’s 20th 20-point game of her career, along with her 41st double-double.
“I think I warmed up good [laughing],” Blackwell said. “But no, I just feed off the energy of the team. I feel like when we’re energized; everybody feels it. I guess that was it.”
The University of Missouri transfer, Blackwell, had her way with the Cardinals’ defense from the get-go, scoring nine of the team’s 11 points in the first quarter, followed by eight in the second. She was the only source of offense for a Bears team that struggled to find ways to score against UIW’s zone.
“You have to read holes against a zone,” head coach Nicki Collen said. “There’s no railroad tracks. You have to read holes. If we have Caitlin Bickle — I’m just telling you — we slice and dice that thing up, because she’s so good in the high post of catching and shooting the little 15-footer, reading the high-low, reading the skip pass. We just have to get better in that space, being super comfortable when we catch it there.”
Bickle was still sidelined with what appears to be a hand injury and can return anytime within a 1-3 week period, per Collen.
After scoring just two points through the first half, junior guard Sarah Andrews connected on a pair of threes to help her finish with 12 points on 5-11 shooting. Andrews also dished out four assists and recorded three steals.
Late in the third quarter, junior guard Jana Van Gytenbeek had a wide open shot from the corner, but passed it to Andrews on the left wing. Andrews hit the shot from distance to cap off the unselfish play from Gytenbeek.
Collen said “those are winning plays” and that it was good to see more assertiveness out of Andrews.
“Tonight she needed to handle the ball more,” Collen said. “She needed to put the ball on the floor and get us into things. And I thought a couple of times we did a good job getting her the ball back when she gave it up. I know Jana threw an extra to her for a three and those are winning plays. We look at those — playing good to great. A shot that Jana could have taken but kicks it to Sarah.”
The only other Bear in double figures was freshman forward Bella Fontleroy, who recorded her first career start on Thursday. Fontleroy chipped in 11 points on 50% from the floor, hitting 1-2 threes as well. She also had one block and one steal.
It was a grit-and-grind first half that saw Baylor lead 26-18 over UIW, but a 9-2 run in the first three minutes of the third quarter began the decimation. The Bears cruised to the 71-42 victory, led by Fontleroy’s 11 second half points and Andrews’ 10.
“We know we can shoot the ball,” Andrews said. “You’re going to have nights where the shots don’t fall, but what are you going to do? We got stops on defense. We played in transition. We played through Aijah. We’re going to get in the gym and put up shots, and next game we’ll knock down shots. I have nothing but faith in us that we will knock down shots.”
The Bears continue their season-opening four-game homestand against Southern Methodist University on Tuesday. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
- Bickle (hand) was sidelined on Thursday and is still at least a week away from returning.
- Redshirt senior forward Dre’Una Edwards (eligibility) did not suit up. Edwards’ expected return is unknown.
- Ja’Mee Asberry (elbow) was not in uniform and her status is also unclear.