Morgantown, WV—Everything was clicking for the No. 11 Baylor Bears (15-4, 5-2 Big 12) as they won their fifth straight game sine losing their first two Big 12 contests. This time they dismantled West Virginia (10-8, 3-5 Big 12) by 33 points, 87-54.
Jordan Lewis recorded the seventh triple double in Baylor program history; the second ever vs West Virginia and the first for the Bears since Alexis Jones did so in 2017. Lewis had 10 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
Late in the game, Lewis did not even realize how close she was, but ultimately it means more for the team than herself.
Lewis described her performance and the feeling:
“I really didn’t realize until I had two rebounds left and coach Nicki told me ‘I know you’re tired but you’re two rebounds away from a triple double so go out there and get those so I can take you out.’ It means a lot to me; it means more to me for the team… My favorite part about the game is to get my teammates open and get them open shots. Today they were able to knock those down. Rebounding; helping my team start the break. I feel like we play better when I rebound and start the break instead of always out-letting the ball.”
Lewis now joins Baylor legends Brittany Griner and Jones as the only Bears to ever notch tripe doubles. Griner had five and Jones had one.
“It just means a lot; I love to get my teammates open. I love to help them and do the little things,” Lewis reflected. “I know some of the things I do don’t show up in the stat sheet, but that’s my favorite part of the game that there’s always people dong something behind the scenes that aren’t necessarily stated or shown. I think it’s amazing honor not only for me, but the team and just showing us how much we’re growing over the past few games.”
It was not just Lewis who had a great day. Sarah Andrews had 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and Ja’mee Asberry hit three triples for her nine points. Coach Nicki Collen had much praise for the sophomore guard.
“She’s just steady,” Coach Collen articulated of Andrews. “Today, she forced nothing. She did a really good job of making good decisions. She had some early assists in the game, she made threes, she was pretty low volume today. Just did the little things: finished at the rim, made her free throws… She’s playing so confidently, with so much poise considering she really didn’t get that many minutes a year ago.”
Baylor opened the game up early by having success in the post. Queen Egbo and NaLyssa Smith had 20 points each on a combined 19-of-22 shooting night from the field. Coach Collen said the Bears ran two new plays to begin the game that resulted with each one getting a layup and set the tone.
Smith, though she picked up a technical in the third quarter as her fourth personal and went to the bench, also made a three and gobbled seven rebounds; Egbo had eight boards, three steals and three blocks.
Having two monsters in the post helps open the game up and forces defense to concentrate on the interior. It provides more space and makes it easier for point guards like Lewis to make plays.
Lewis said glowingly of her forwards, “They’re two of the best post players in the country, I think. I wouldn’t trade them for anybody. Today their finishing ability was unbelievable, they were able to catch the ball on the lob and I think we executed that game plan very well. They also were able to knock down the outside shot…their ability to finish at the rim and shoot that 15 footer consistently is really going to take us far.”
West Virginia led early 6-4, but the Bears went on a 9-0 run in two minutes and closed the first quarter on a 10-0 run in the final two minutes that changed the complexion of the game. Baylor went on an 11-2 over the final five minutes of the first half to lead by 30 at halftime.
It did not help the Mountaineers that they lost their best player and scorer Kirsten Deans to injury early in the first quarter. Emery Martinez led West Virginia in scoring with 13 points off the bench. Otherwise, the Mountaineers only shot 21-of-70 from the field.
They ballooned the lead to as large as 36 in the second half and coach Collen’s team looks ready for the difficult gauntlet of playing three games in five days. The Bears host No. 19 Oklahoma and play No. 13 Texas twice over the weekend due to rescheduling. They then host No. 25 Kansas State a week from Wednesday.
Still, Coach Collen is just focusing on the next game.
“I’m not going to get too high. Oklahoma got us on the road already; so my sights are on Oklahoma. We are very much in 1-0 mode. We got to win the day; we got to beat our next opponent. At this point, we don’t care what other people are doing we have to take care of our business. Do I like the fact that we have balance, do I like that we came on the road and won by 30, yeh I like that. I like that we’re starting to understand how to pay together; we’re starting to understand that everybody can get theirs and we can still be a really, really good team. That the collective group is more important than the individual.”
Coach Collen also added that “I’m happy with we’re at. Im never going to make excuses, but our 0-2 start had a lot to do with Covid… We’re just starting to figure it out.”
That seemed to be the common thread from speaking with many after this victory. That Baylor is just starting to play at full health; that guards like Andrews and Lewis are finally starting to come into their own; that Egbo and Smith are finding the balance between assertiveness and negative aggression; and that all are playing for the good of the team no matter if it counts as a stat or not.
Just starting to figure it out is potentially a scary prospect for the rest of the league.
Will that allow Baylor to make multiple championship runs now that they have been hardened by adversity?
For now, Baylor has climbed out of the Big 12 cellar and this next stretch—which includes rematches to teams they lost to—will go a long way to proving that if they can defend their Big 12 title.