By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Due to frigid conditions, the Baylor women’s basketball team had a feeling it would be hard for folks to come out and support it on Wednesday night. The Bears had the University of Kansas on deck and only 1,157 fans were able to show up.
For reference, the Ferrell Center can hold up to 10,284 people for a basketball game.
As a result, junior guard Sarah Andrews said “we had to create our own energy” in order for Baylor to end up holding off Kansas 77-73 on Wednesday night in the Ferrell Center. Andrews also noted that those fans in attendance played a big factor in the win.
“Most of all, we’re thankful for the people that were able to come,” Andrews said. “They were very loud, the ones that were able to come, so I think we fed off them a lot tonight, and we appreciate it.”
Andrews was one of four Bears in double figures, as she had 23 points on seven of 14 from the field. She also dished out a game-high eight assists and recorded three steals and three blocks. According to Her Hoop Stats, Andrews became just the fourth player in NCAA Division I since 2009-10 to earn at least 20 points, eight assists, three steals and three blocks in a single game and is the first to do so since 2019.
Fifth-year senior Caitlin Bickle trailed Andrews with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. The freshmen forward tandem of Bella Fontleroy and Darianna Littlepage-Buggs chipped in with 14 and 12 points respectively. Littlepage-Buggs hauled in a team-best 10 rebounds to secure her ninth double-double of the season.
Per Her Hoop Stats, Littlepage-Buggs joined Brittney Griner (8x) and Nina Davis (7x) as the only Baylor freshman since 2009-10 to earn five double-doubles in league games.
Baylor (15-6, 6-3 Big 12) scored 29 baskets on 22 assists, something head coach Nicki Collen said she loves to see. Collen said it was especially impressive to see that mark against a Jayhawks (14-6, 4-5 Big 12) team that usually hunkers down on assisted buckets.
“If you look at [the] percentage of made baskets, like even when we played well up there, a lot of them were unassisted baskets relative to what we normally do,” Collen said. “They’re really not easy to get assists against because of how they play. They have good individual defenders … They’re really good on their help side and they’re pretty big and long.”
Andrews said “we’re at our best” when the squad shares the sugar and has the type of night it had.
“[For opposing defenses], you have to pick your poison,” Andrews said. “Anybody can go off on any given night … We’re amazing when we get 22 assists.”
It took nearly five minutes for both teams to score, but the count was knotted at 2-2 following a pair of KU free throws. The Bears got a second-chance bucket from Bickle and two jumpers from Littlepage-Buggs to only trail 12-8 at the end of the first quarter.
The Jayhawks started to penetrate the lane a bit more in the second period and found success off of several floaters near the cup. Baylor’s offense withstood it by outscoring Kansas 22-16 in the quarter, nearly doubling the 12 points it put up in the first.
The Bears finished the second quarter on an 8-2 run to take a narrow 30-28 lead into the break. In those 10 minutes, Andrews cashed in on a jump shot and a layup to give her nine points to pair with five assists through the first 20 minutes of action.
Baylor’s offense managed to up its scoring in the third thanks to 23 points to KU’s 17. The Bears found momentum off of three-straight triples, courtesy of Bickle, Fontleroy and Andrews. But the 11-point lead Baylor built at the six minute, one second mark was trimmed to eight by the end of the third at 53-45.
Both programs traded baskets for much of the fourth quarter until there was one minute, 42 seconds remaining. The Jayhawks had trimmed their deficit to 68-66 after a couple of free throws, resulting in a Collen timeout. Then Andrews stepped back on the court and scored four points in 20 seconds off layups to bolster the Baylor lead at 72-66 with one minute, 11 seconds to go.
“I haven’t met very many other players that can do what Sarah does,” Fontleroy said after the game. “She creates space so easily. She’s so crafty, she gets to the rim and finishes. All I have to do is follow [her] and rebound just in case. But most of the time, I don’t have to do that.”
Kansas made a jump shot on the other end before Andrews knocked down two free throws to make it 74-68 with 35 seconds left. Andrews went back to line after a KU miss, made one of two shots from the stripe and watched as the Jayhawks nailed a three-pointer, which made it 75-71 with 19 seconds on the clock.
Senior guard Jaden Owens couldn’t make either of her free shots and Kansas zipped down the court and laid the ball in, the tally now 75-73 in favor of the Bears. Andrews received the next inbound, was fouled and proceeded to ice the game with two clutch free throws, securing the 77-73 victory for Baylor.
The Bears will hit the road to Ames, Iowa, for a tough conference game against No. 12 Iowa State University. Tip-off is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Hilton Coliseum and the game can be watched on ESPNU.
Fontleroy said the group needs to “bring that same energy” against the top-12 Cyclones (15-5, 7-3 Big 12).
“[We need to] start with the same energy, be ready for the physicality and we know that they’re a great execution team,” Fontleroy said. “So, just playing our defense and being in the gaps, protecting, rotating and really focusing in on that. I feel like that and our offensive execution will be able to take care of it.”