Stillwater, OK—The Baylor (22-5, 12-3 Big 12) players were stiffing laughs at halftime as their coach Nicki Collen attempted to drive home a heated message that there was nothing funny about their performance in the first 20 minutes.
“I had a heated halftime speech,” Coach Collen said afterwards, but also said some players were laughing because of the subject matter she was addressing. Collen said they were “more concerned with having a snow day or snow party” than playing the game.
And Baylor was up nine, 34-25, at the break.
The concerns were valid, however, as Oklahoma State (8-16, 3-12 Big 12) jumped out to a 7-0 lead in just over three minutes. The Cowgirls led 11-4 before the Bears ended the first quarter on an 8-0 run.
Just about everybody contributed evenly for Baylor. In a game that felt like the equivalent to a ‘bullpen’ game in baseball, Coach Collen relied on the energy of Caitlin Bickle (seven points and seven boards) and the clean play of Jaden Owens—who were +12 and +13 respectively for the game in plus/minus—off the bench to jump start the Bears’ offense.
The Bears continued a strong performance in the second quarter by riding NaLyssa Smith—who had 12 points and seven points in the first half and 19 points and 15 rebounds for the game— and out scoring Oklahoma State 20-10 in the paint for the half.
Yet, the frustration came from the Bears’ inability to generate good ball movement on offense and their nine turnovers that resulted in 10 points for the Pokes and kept them in the game.
Oklahoma State finished with 26 points off turnovers for the game. Baylor turned the ball over 19 times, which was just two fewer than the turnovers they had in their last three games combined (21). And OSU did not let the Bears run away to a blowout victory like they did in their 18-point loss in Waco back in January.
Baylor got up by as many as 14 in the third quarter and led by 12 before the Cowgirls ripped off a 13-2 run to make it a 43-44 game. Immediately, Sarah Andrews—17 points on 7-of-12 shooting and four assists— knocked down critical back-to-back three-pointers in the final two minutes to help give the Bears some cushion heading into the fourth.
The Bears were up by as many as nine in the fourth before Oklahoma State chipped away again at the deficit. A Macie James three and Micah Dennis layup helped get the Pokes to only trail 50-54 with six minutes remaining. After Lexy Keys, who had a team high 13 points, banked in a three to cut the margin to five, Jordan Lewis responded with a critical drive and layup—perfect timing for her only basket of the game.
Coach Collen reinserted Queen Egbo—who was on the bench not due to fouls but due to her low energy on an off night— into the game who scored two quick buckets on assists from Andrews. Egbo had eight points in three minutes and 15 seconds to help Baylor salt this game away. She finished with 13 points and six rebounds.
In the end Baylor won 65-58, their seventh game in a row and 12 of their last 13 to keep pace with Iowa State in the Big 12 standings. It snapped a four-game streak of winning by at least 18 points.
They will be forced to stay in Stillwater tonight and not travel back to Waco until tomorrow due to the snow and ice.
A well deserved snow day after all for a team that has been in a must win position, often playing without breaks, since January. It will be complete with hot chocolate and pizza while the Bears begin to prepare for Kansas in the Cowgirls’ facilities.
They will now play Kansas on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Ferrell Center. The Jayhawks had a seven-game winning streak that was bookended by losses to the Cyclones. But Kansas will surly be seeking revenge against the Bears for a victory that was stolen from them when they allowed the Bears to score the seven points in the final 11 seconds.
Coach Collen has really built a solid rapport with the students over the course of this season. She has hosted meet and greets at the student union; sat in the Bear Pit student section for men’s games; interacted with fraternities on Twitter; and tossed $100 gift cards into the stands after the games.
Anything to try to make coming to games ‘cool’ Collen said. She also added that she hopes students are not waiting in line to get tickets to the men’s game against Kansas while her team is playing!