By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
No. 12 University of Texas had the opportunity to clinch a share of the Big 12 championship with a win over Baylor women’s basketball. But the Bears, who aren’t in the running for the conference title for the first time in over 12 years, forced the Longhorns to wait another game.
Baylor knocked off Texas 63-54 Monday night in the Moody Center in Austin for the green and gold’s third-straight win and fifth victory over a top-25 opponent this season. The success also snapped the Longhorns’ 12-game home win streak.
Head coach Nicki Collen said the key to the game was that the Bears “had to be tougher than them.”
“We know Texas is tough,” Collen said. “It’s what [UT head coach Vic Schaefer] teaches; it’s how they play. There wasn’t a lot of X’s and O’s. It was more of my best version of a pregame speech to get them excited to play.
“The one thing Vic told me when he shook my hand was, ‘You guys were the tougher team today.’ That made me really proud, because it’s all we talked about: toughness, toughness, toughness.”
The Bears (19-10, 10-7 Big 12) avoided being swept in the season series by Texas (22-8, 13-4 Big 12) thanks to a trio of strong outings. On the day she won her seventh Big 12 Freshman of the Year award, forward Darianna Littlepage-Buggs came off the bench and delivered a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double. The performance marked Littlepage-Buggs’ 14th double-double of the season and 10th in conference play. Her 10th in conference play continues to be the most by a Baylor rookie dating back to at least the 2009-10 season, as she’s already surpassed Brittney Griner’s eight.
Six of Littlepage-Buggs’ rebounds came on the offensive glass, and she connected on nine of her 18 shot attempts.
“I know last game I didn’t do too well,” Littlepage-Buggs said. “So, honestly, just taking that toughness — we talked about that a lot — just executing on that and staying on that, that was my biggest thing tonight. And then my teammates, they made shots all ball game. It just kept going all game.”
Junior guard Sarah Andrews followed with 17 points on 50% from the field to go with seven rebounds and two steals. Andrews logged 40 minutes to Littlepage-Buggs’ 39. Graduate student guard Ja’Mee Asberry chipped in with 10 points, four rebounds and three assists. Asberry sank 2-of-4 triples as well.
The Bears led for nearly the entire game, as the Longhorns’ last advantage came at the 4:27 mark of the second quarter, when they were ahead 28-26. Littlepage-Buggs scored on a jump shot less than a minute later, and Baylor held the lead from that point on. The Bears held UT to a season-low 54 points, as it averaged 75.3 points per game going into Monday’s contest.
The green and gold held a 20-18 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to a bench explosion from Littlepage-Buggs. She scored 11 of her 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the period and helped the team take the two-point edge.
“[Littlepage-Buggs] was on fire,” Andrews said. “Our freshmen, honestly, are special. And honestly, Buggs grew a lot. She stepped up and she knocked down big shots. She carried us over going into halftime. I think we just fed off her energy and wanted to keep fighting.”
Asberry drilled a 3-pointer with just over a minute to go in the second quarter, but Texas responded with a layup nearly 30 seconds later to make it 37-32, Baylor, going into the break.
Another triple fell for Asberry near the midway point of the third quarter, and the Bears extended their lead to 46-39. UT responded with four quick points, but Baylor was able to cling to a five-point lead by the end of the period.
Andrews took over in the fourth quarter, as she scored a pair of 3-pointers to help keep Texas at bay. The Longhorns cut their deficit to five with just under seven minutes remaining, but Andrews and the Bears pulled away and secured their 63-54 win.
Baylor returns home for its season finale against West Virginia University on Saturday. The game is the back half of a Baylor basketball Saturday doubleheader, as the No. 7 men’s team will face off with Iowa State University at 11 a.m. before the women tip-off their Senior Day game at 5 p.m. in the Ferrell Center.