Waco, TX— Just 48 hours after a devastating loss to No. 18 Oklahoma, Coach Nicki Collen and No. 9 Baylor turned around and beat No. 13 Texas 75-63 to stay in the Big 12 title hunt.
NaLyssa Smith had a game high 25 points on 10-of-12 shooting with one three to put the game on ice and also collected eight rebounds. She bookended the game with Baylor’s first shot—an opening layup— and a three—the Bears’ final made basket— in the closing seconds. Ja’Mee Asberry had all of 15 points in the first half including four three-pointers.
The Bears scored the first five points of the game and jumped out to an 18-7 advantage. They led by as many as 14 in the second quarter before Texas slowly chipped away. Down 35-21 six minutes before halftime, Aliyah Matharu spearheaded a 13-7 run to get the margin to within 10. Matharu hit four three-pointers and had a team high 17 points off the bench.
Coach Vic Schafer and the Longhorns did not arrive in Waco until this afternoon due to ice. They demonstrated the consequences of having delayed travel and a limited shoot around as they turned the ball over 15 times and saw Baylor score 21 points off those turnovers in the first half alone. The only starter in double digits was Rory Harmon with 10.
Matharu and Harmon helped dwindle a 10-point deficit in the third all the way down to three points with 2:44 remaining. The Bears then went on a 8-0 run to end the quarter and push their lead to 11 in spite of only making one field goal in the final four and a half minutes.
Baylor was able to keep their separation throughout the fourth quarter with their lead never getting below seven points as they made timely shots and hit key free throws. The Bears were 87.5 percent (21-of-24) at the line; they also assisted on 19 of their made 24 shots. Sarah Andrews continued to be deadly as she racked up 17 points; eight assists and seven rebounds.
On the other hand, Texas only shot 37.3 percent from the field despite nailing five of eight threes and converted 14-of-21 foul shots.
It was an ultra physical contest between the two rivals and the officials let the girls play for the most part. Almost as if the referees themselves were not prepared for how physical this rivalry can get. It resulted in some ugly basketball with missed layups and head scratching turnovers on both sides. It also created another exciting chapter in the program’s heated rivalry.
The victory, however, for the Bears could not presumed until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. With such a short bench and multiple players in foul trouble all evening (Queen Egbo fouled out) anything was possible. After all this is the same team who has blown fourth quarter leads in the final minutes to Oklahoma twice this season; scored seven straight in 11 seconds to beat Kansas and had razor thin non conference contests against Missouri, Maryland and Michigan.
And Baylor nearly collapsed again before recovering late in the third quarter. Egbo only had six points on one made field goal in 14 minutes; Jordan Lewis was 0-for-6 from the field tonight and has only made one shot in her last two games; and Baylor turned the ball over 19 times and struggled to inbound the ball every single time vs the Texas press.
The double digit win was still an excellent one against a top-13 in-state, conference rival with Baylor in nearly a must-win position. The question will be if they can turn around again in 44 hours—their third game in five days— to beat this same Longhorn team on the road?
Both teams have plenty of easy errors to fix and will likely play a bit more conservatively to avoid foul trouble to begin the game at least. Which players—like Egbo and Lewis or Egbo and Warren for Texas— can respond to get out of their funk and can stars such as Smith and Matharu duplicate their performances?
Another factor to watch will be how the officiating crew calls this next one especially after seeing how physical this game was, the rivalry with Baylor winning the last 12 over Texas, and both teams playing again so soon. My guess would be that the refs call it tight from the beginning and issue quick warnings to prevent anything from boiling over.
So the Baylor men will have a top 10 matchup at the Phog with Kansas 3 pm on Saturday and the Baylor women will have a top 13 rematch in Austin with Texas 4 pm on Sunday. Both will have massive Big 12 title implications attached to the outcomes.
Buckle up; it’s going to be a fun 24 hours.