Waco, TX— Kansas (19-7, 10-6 Big 12) came into the Ferrell Center looking for revenge over Baylor (23-5, 13-3 Big 12); NaLyssa Smith made sure that would not happen.
Smith made her final bucket with 16 seconds left to secure the Bears’ 85-77 victory over the Jayhawks. It gave her a career high of 33 points on 13-of-23 shooting and she added 16 rebounds in playing all 40 minutes.
“NaLyssa was obviously terrific,” Kansas coach Brandon Schneider said first thing after the game. “Every time we made a push, she made a play either offensively or defensivley.”
“Finally.” Smith said about the relief in being Abe to crack the 30-point barrier.
The Jayhawks were hitting threes and using great ball movement to create open layups in the first half as Ioanna Chatzileonti put Kansas ahead 28-20. Chatzileonti finished with a team high 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting; Zahiyaih Franklin had 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting and Chandler Pruter came off the bench to add 13 points.
It all still wasn’t enough.
The Bears went on a 16-4 run to end the first half and were up seven early in the third quarter when Kansas used an 11-2 run to reclaim the lead. That’s when Ja’Mee Asberry sprung to life.
The Oklahoma State transfer had a big night with 19 points and draining four threes. But when Kansas took a 45-43 led, Asberry knocked down a three—on Smith’s lone assist for the game—and then drove for an AND-1 on consecutive possessions to give back the lead to Baylor.
Jordan Lewis, who had eight assists, took a key charge late in the game; chop that up to experience as the sixth year grad transfer now holds the NCAA Division I record for career games played with 158. Sarah Andrews, who is playing a bit banged up, had seven assists. Jaden Owens made two huge threes in the first quarter.
The difference, however, was the tandem of Smith and Asberry. The final box score was nearly identical in terms of field goal percentage, rebounds, points off turnovers (23-17 BU) and made free throws (although Baylor attempted and missed a lot more from the charity stripe). The Bears shot 42.9 percent from three (all Owens and Asberry) compared to only 28.6 percent for Kansas.
Baylor has now won eight in a row and 13 of their last 14 games. It was a streak that began against Kansas back in January, where they scored seven points in the final 11 seconds to win their first Big 12 game of the year and in Nicki Collen’s tenure.
Now they have a championship matchup in roughly 48 hours against the Iowa State Cyclones in Ames. Both teams have a 13-3 Big 12 conference record with Baylor winning the first matchup in Waco.
But it was anything but smooth sailing for the Bears after they had a coaching regime change and battle with Covid-19 to begin the year 0-2 in last place of the Big 12 standings.
“I think it made us hungry,” Coach Collen said on the 0-2 Big 12 start. “This team is resilient…proud of the belief they have had in each other and the coaches.”
To battle back to now be in a position to win the league showcases the mental toughness of this special group.
Smith concurred, “[we] fight through adversity.”
On having the opportunity now to clinch at least a share of the Big 12 against Iowa State, Asberry stressed, “we need to play our hearts out. God [will] handle what he handles and [we] have to let it come to us.
Baylor will play Iowa State on Monday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN2.