Kansas City, MO—The No. 4 Baylor Bears (No. 1 in Big 12) extracted sweet revenge on the No. 21 Oklahoma Sooners (No. 4 in Big 12) via a dominating second half in their 91-76 semifinal victory.
The Sooners had beaten the Bears twice this season and did so by overcoming six-point fourth quarter deficits in both Norman and Waco. So it was nothing new when Oklahoma found themselves down by seven midway through the second quarter and started their comeback.
A 10-2 run allowed the Sooners to take a one-point lead with about two and a half minutes before the half. they were led by Taylor Robertson who finished with 17 points and seven rebounds. While Robertson was busy knocking downs triples from the logo, her partner in crime Madi Williams was busy doing it all and ended with a team high 33 points and eight boards.
Ultimatley, the 50 combined points by the crimson and cream duo was not enough. And that is because the Bears had NaLyssa Smith.
After the Sooners took the lead, Smith responded in an overpowering way by muscling in for easy layups and grabbing key rebounds. She had eight of her 19 first half points in the final two minutes before halftime that supercharged a 10-2 Bears run in response. Baylor, with all the momentum, led 47-40 at the break.
Smith was not done. In the third quarter, the All-American had 14 of Baylor’s 28 points and helped hold Oklahoma to 16 points. The Bears shot 67 percent in the third as they expanded their lead to as high as 24 points, although the Sooners cut it to 15 on a Williams’ three.
The Bears led by 19 entering the fourth quarter and the closest Oklahoma ever got again was 13 points with 1:37 left when the game was decided. Baylor only turned the ball over twice for the game—a program and Big 12 tournament record.
Smith finished with a career high 37 points and 11 rebounds. It is the third time in the past five games where Smith has broken her previous career high point total. It was her 51st career double double (third in Baylor history) and ties Debbie Polk (1980-81) for most double doubles in a single season with 23.
It was hard for anybody to have a better day than Smith, but two people certainly tried.
First, Caitlin Bickle finished with a career high 21 points—15 of which came in the first half—and six rebounds. She drew at least three charges, and her foul late in the fourth quarter caused head coaches Nicki Collen and Jennie Baranczyk to get in a verbal altercation with each other and the referees.
And then there was Smith’s father, Rodney. With the entire Smith family and friends in tow, Rodney was selected to participate in the Phillips 66 halftime halfcourt shot contest. One shot, one opportunity to win $6,600 in gas money.
Rodney launched a beautiful rainbow arc shot that swished in, nothing but net, and the celebration was on. With increasing gas prices, that $6,600 gas card may not go as far as it once did but will be a huge help as Baylor will seek to have three more road trips in the next three weeks.
Guards Ja’Mee Asberry, Jordan Lewis and Sarah Andrews finished with nine, eight and five points respectively and combined for six of the team’s seven three-pointers. With it, Baylor set a program record with 215 threes made during this season. Andrews was seen icing what looked to be her non-shooting hand after the game—something that has looked to become routine for the past few weeks.
Baylor advances to their 11th straight Big 12 championship game tomorrow at 1 p.m. on ESPN2. A win will be their tenth title in the past 11 tries—the 2020 tournament was canceled.
Oklahoma is hoping they have done enough to be a top four seed on Selection Sunday and host the first two rounds of the tournament.