Bella Fontleroy’s 14 helps Baylor women’s basketball down TCU, 67-57

Freshman forward Bella Fontleroy (22) sizes her defender up in the triple threat position during a conference game against Texas Christian University on Wednesday in the Schollmaier Arena, in Fort Worth. Photo courtesy of Baylor Athletics

By Michael Haag | Sports Editor

Baylor women’s basketball arrived in Fort Worth in the midst of a four-game losing streak with several athletes battling illness. The Bears had to square off against Texas Christian University, a team that had secured its first conference win of the season in its last outing.

It would’ve been easy to crumble and let TCU even the season series, but Baylor found double-digit scorers in five different athletes and took down the Horned Frogs 67-57 Wednesday night in the Schollmaier Arena in Fort Worth.

The win for the Bears (17-10, 8-7 Big 12) snapped a four-game losing slump and came with several players suffering from sickness, according to head coach Nicki Collen.

“Jana [Van Gytenbeek has] been sick, Sarah [Andrews has] been sick and hasn’t practiced in two days,” Collen said. “We had to survive this game.”

Junior guard Sarah Andrews was not in the starting rotation today, but Collen clarified after the game that it was due to her missing practices and not being up-to-date on game prep for TCU (7-19, 1-14 Big 12). Andrews finished with 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting to pair with three assists.

Andrews’ points total pushed her to a team-best 21 games in double figures this season, and she’s recorded double digits in all but two conference games.

Since the Horned Frogs joined the Big 12 before the 2012-13 season, Baylor has swept the series with TCU every year and has won 35-straight games dating back to the 1989-90 campaign. Collen said she was just glad to see her team get back in the win column.

“Every win matters in this league,” Collen said. “Every win matters for seeding, every win matters for NCAA Tournament implications. We had a great contingent of Baylor people up here [in Fort Worth]. We’re super grateful for all of them coming out on a Wednesday night to cheer us on. We felt it.”

Freshman forward Bella Fontleroy was the team’s leading scorer on Wednesday with 14 points. Fontleroy also grabbed five boards and turned the ball over five times.

Graduate student guard Ja’Mee Asberry and fifth-year senior forward Caitlin Bickle both matched Andrews’ point total with 12 points apiece. Asberry connected on 2-of-3 shots from deep while Bickle hauled in six rebounds and dished out four assists, despite fouling out for the third-consecutive game.

The final Bear in double figures was freshman forward Darianna Littlepage-Buggs, who notched 10 points to pair with 14 rebounds. Those numbers registered Littlepage-Buggs’ 13th double-double of the season, and ninth in Big 12 play. Her nine double-doubles in conference action are the most by a Baylor rookie dating back to the 2009-10 season.

The first quarter was rough for the Bears as they were outscored in the paint 10-2. Asberry hit her second 3-pointer of the game at the 5:17 mark to make it 12-6 in favor of Baylor, but the Horned Frogs responded with seven-straight points to take a one-point lead.

TCU hit a 3-pointer with less than a minute to go, and it held a 20-17 advantage at the buzzer.

After allowing 20 points in the first quarter, the Bears only allowed 22 total points over the next two periods. Baylor found 13 points off its bench in the second quarter and flipped the script on points in the paint (10-4) to take a 39-31 lead into the break.

“We started the game [and] at the end of the first quarter, we were getting killed in points in the paint,” Collen said. “So, to finish the game by winning that battle, getting to the free throw line, second chance points, key fast break points; we won the battle in every area.”

Andrews scored 10 of her 12 points in that second quarter.

In the third quarter, both teams only managed to put up 11 points each, as the quarter was an offensive struggle. When the fourth quarter rolled around, the Bears leading 50-42 at this point, they were close to breaking loose and extending their lead to double digits.

However, TCU managed to cut its deficit to just three points with 6:45 remaining. Then, Fontleroy stepped up when the team needed her most. She scored nine of her game-high 14 points in the period and was 3-of-4 from the floor.

At the 3:06 mark, Fontleroy cashed in on a 3-pointer to give Baylor its first double-digit lead of the game at 61-51. That was the tipping point for the Bears, as they closed the fourth quarter on a 15-8 run following the moment when the Frogs got within three points of tying it.

Baylor turned the ball over 21 times, but somehow won the points off turnovers battle, 21-9, and finished with a strong 41-31 advantage in the rebounding department, also posting 16 second-chance points.

Littlepage-Buggs said the squad gained a confidence boost from this game, but she added that “we’re not done.”

“We have to keep our heads [up], we have to keep grinding,” Littlepage-Buggs said. “This is just one [win]. I think [we] just [need to] take this confidence and just keep carrying it on and expanding on it.”

The Bears will travel back home to play in the back half of a hoops doubleheader, hosting Texas Tech University at 5 p.m. Saturday. This game follows No. 9 Baylor men’s basketball versus No. 8 University of Texas scheduled for 1 p.m. in the Ferrell Center.