By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
Baylor women’s basketball head coach Nicki Collen didn’t sugar coat it after her team lost a heartbreaking contest to No. 16 University of Oklahoma in the Big 12’s first overtime game of the year. The Bears led for 39 minutes, 14 seconds of a 45-minute game but ultimately fell short to the Sooners 98-92 Tuesday night in the Ferrell Center.
“I tried to challenge them, but I don’t think I did enough to get them to believe we were going to win when the game went to overtime,” Collen said. “I could see the fact that that game was won, and we found a way to lose it. We literally found a way to lose the basketball game.”
The loss came despite a career-high 30 points from fifth-year senior forward Caitlin Bickle, who shot a perfect 10 for 10 from the free throw stripe. Bickle said the Bears (16-7, 7-4 Big 12) made some costly mistakes down the stretch that ultimately led to the loss.
“We saved the ball inbounds a couple of times when we shouldn’t have,” Bickle said. “We were having trouble inbounding the ball, we weren’t having the right person inbound the ball. When we were catching it, we were trying to dribble right away instead of just holding it and the game could have been over with. It was just certain things where we let the game kind of get to us. We weren’t as calm as we usually would be in the past.”
Senior guard Jaden Owens dished out a career-best 14 assists on Tuesday in the loss. But Owens and the rest of the team combined for 21 turnovers as a team. 12 of those were as a result of the Sooners (19-4, 9-3 Big 12) recording a steal.
Three of Oklahoma’s scores in overtime came off a Baylor turnover. Owens said it was uncharacteristic to see a collapse like that from the squad.
“We didn’t take care of the ball, I didn’t take care of the ball, especially in crunch time,” Owens said. “I wouldn’t really say they had me sped up or anything, or us. I just think it was, I don’t know, maybe a lack of focus.”
Junior guard Sarah Andrews notched another 20-point outing while freshman forward Darianna Littlepage-Buggs posted her fourth-straight double-double and 11th of the season, as she finished with 14 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. Graduate student guard Ja’Mee Asberry was the only other Bear in double figures with 11.
Bickle hit a pair of jumpers, including a 3-pointer to get Baylor going in the first quarter. Both teams hung around and dished out opposing blows but the Bears held a 22-18 lead through the first 10 minutes.
Baylor then jumped to an eight-point lead at the five minute mark in the second quarter after Buggs hit a jump shot, but the Sooners responded with five quick points to make it 35-32. Andrews hit two-straight shots from deep and Bickle hit another from 3-point land to push the Bears ahead by 12. However, Oklahoma outscored Baylor 8-2 over the final two minutes, 41 seconds to only trail 46-42 at the half.
Andrews and Bickle combined for 26 first half points on six of 10 3-point attempts. Collectively, the squad shot 50% (8-16) from deep through those first 20 minutes.
Bickle dominated the third quarter, as she accounted for half of the team’s total points in the 10-minute period. She amassed 10 points on perfect shooting, helped by four free throws. The Bears extended their lead back to double digits after Bickle made a second-chance jumper nearly two minutes into the quarter. But the next two minutes weren’t as friendly when OU ripped off seven-straight points to cut its deficit to 54-51 with six minutes, 12 seconds to play.
Both teams went back and forth in those final six minutes before Baylor cashed in on four free throws to take a 66-58 lead into the end of the period.
The Bears clamped down in the fourth quarter and held the Sooners to just two points in the first four minutes, 52 seconds. In that same stretch, Baylor scored nine points to hold a 75-63 lead. Oklahoma bounced right back with a 9-1 run to only trail by one with nearly two and a half minutes to go. Then Bickle hit two free throws that were matched by a Sooners’ layup and the Bears still held a two-point lead.
12 seconds after the lay in, Andrews hit a 3-pointer to push Baylor ahead by five. OU scored two more points that were negated by a couple of Owens free throws, putting the Bears’ lead back up to five with 26 seconds to go.
Then, the madness ensued.
The Sooners only needed six seconds to score a quick layup and rather than fouling, they stole the ball from Andrews. Three seconds later, OU’s redshirt senior Taylor Robertson, the NCAA’s all-time leading three-pointer shooter, drilled a shot from behind the arc to tie the game at 83-83, forcing overtime.
The Sooners jumped out to its first lead of the game in the extra period, taking control of the contest. Andrews swished in a clutch 3-pointer to tie the game at 90 points apiece with just under two minutes to go, but Oklahoma outscored Baylor 7-2 in the final one minute, 42 seconds to secure its win.
“We were winning the turnover battle all night,” Collen said. “We were winning points off turnovers until the end. But, I feel like we were deflated, giving up the lead. We even tied it up once, we just didn’t have enough gas in our tank to get enough stops late to win.”
Tuesday marked just the second overtime game of the Collen era.
Collen said a loss like this isn’t one you can just put in the rearview mirror. She said this is one that stings more than the rest.
“You don’t get over it because the difference in the ending of that game just eats at you. It eats at your soul,” Collen said. “You don’t sleep, you don’t eat … . And so, you watch it [on film] and you watch it and you watch it. And even when you’re not watching it, you’re replaying it in your head and you’re trying to figure out where you went wrong as a coach and how to help your kids be better the next time.”
Baylor now awaits Oklahoma State University for a 2 p.m. tip-off on Saturday in the Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Okla.
“But the beauty of coaching is that on Thursday, we get to start preparing for OSU,” Collen said. “And if we’re not motivated to beat them after them coming in here and winning then we’re not the team that I think we’re capable of being.
“And this one [against Oklahoma] hurts because we had a chance to put ourselves in second [place in the Big 12] alone and have a tiebreaker over them and control our own destiny. And now we need help. We need to control what we can control but now we need help. And so, that part kind of sucks.”