By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer
No. 17 Baylor women’s basketball snuck by with a 58-55 win over Southern Methodist University Tuesday night in the Ferrell Center. The Bears were up by 13 at the beginning of the fourth quarter and the Mustangs closed the gap to a one point with three minutes left.
But a big three-pointer from freshman forward Bella Fontleroy and some key buckets from junior guard Sarah Andrews, helped lift Baylor (3-0) to victory.
“I’m sure people are going to be frustrated with the score, and that’s OK,” head coach Nicki Collen said. “Then when you look at the box score you might see why. But, winning by 25 is fun, but I love a good chess match. I’d prefer not to have been in one tonight. But you see who’s not afraid in those moments.”
During the close fourth quarter, Baylor seemed to be scrambling to pull something together as SMU (1-2) went on a 13-3 run over 5:42 minutes of play. With, as Collen said “a little luck,” the team was able to hang on and finish the game on a positive note.
To get the squad over the hump, Andrews showed up big in the fourth quarter with not only a commanding presence on the court but also two clutch free throws. Those two points grew the Bears’ lead to five and increased Andrews’ total points to 13 for the night.
“It takes energy, effort and fight,” Andrews said. “Those are games I live for, honestly. Those are the best games, those are the games you remember. And they came out and played us hard, they never laid down. But, it took energy and us playing together to pull that one out.”
After Andrews’ two points, SMU marched down the court, hit a three, and trimmed its deficit back to a single possession.
A few seconds later, Fontleroy answered with a beautiful three from the left corner to send the Mustangs back to Dallas.
“We practice shots like that all the time,” Fontleroy said. “I said, ‘I have to knock this down. I have to make this shot, and we have to get a defensive stop on the next possession.’ It felt really, really good.”
Another freshman who had a big night was forward Darianna Littlepage-Buggs, who had a career-high 14 rebounds.
Graduate student guard Ja’Mee Asberry also had a solid game putting up 10 points.
Asberry was most effective in the first quarter where she claimed eight points, giving Baylor a jump start. She made two from outside the arc and connected on a jumper from the top of the key. After SMU answered, Asberry came back and sank another three-point field goal to start the Bears on an 8-0 run.
Also chipping in, sophomore forward Kendra Gillispie racked up a career-high nine points. She opened the third quarter with two baskets and closed the quarter with a commanding layup.
“You saw Kendra kind of step up,” Collen said. “If she deposits the last couple in the basket, once again we get separation and a one-possession game becomes two, a two-possession game becomes three.”
Collen said the game ended in an unexpected way, in that the personnel she had on the floor were not who she was anticipating. The shock of the game was when senior forward Aijha Blackwell was escorted to the locker room after a collision in the first quarter. Blackwell had a stellar performance against the University of Incarnate Word on Thursday, and Collen said Blackwell was a big loss for the Bears this game.
“When you go in and you have a Caitlin Bickle who isn’t playing and Aijha Blackwell isn’t playing and ‘Dre’ Edwards isn’t playing, you have two freshmen out on the floor,” Collen said. “That team that was out there at the end of the game wasn’t the team that I thought I was going to be coaching late in a close game. I’m just proud of them. We found a way.”
The Bears will finish its homestand on Sunday in a top-25 matchup against No. 19 University of Maryland at 2 p.m. in the Ferrell Center.