Waco, TX—Hannah Sjerven stole the ball from Baylor’s Ja’Mee Asberry and drained a three-pointer to put South Dakota on the board first. Chloe Lamb made two more threes and another Sjerven jumper made it 11-0 in the blink of an eye and the tenth seeded Coyotes never looked back.
South Dakota beat the Bears 61-47 and held them to a mere four points in the first quarter; it was 16-4 after the first 10 minutes. Both the four first quarter points and 47 total points were season lows for Nicki Collen’s squad. The Coyotes have never trailed for the first two games of the tournament.
Sjerven said, “As a post player, Baylor is known for having really talented and athletic girls inside, and for us to get this win means a lot.”
For Baylor, NaLyssa Smith could not get going. She had a season low 10 points and eight rebounds as South Dakota sent help defenders time and again to bother the All-American and throw off her rhythm.
A tearful Nicki Collen bragged on Smith when asked to sum up her career:
“NaLyssa had 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. That’s remarkable. It’s remarkable consistency. You know, I think especially as someone who got 2,000 and a 1,000 and didn’t start as a freshman. I don’t know that there has been a lot of — you have to go to stats.com to find that out, who has scored 2,000 points in their career and didn’t start knowing that Kalani and Lauren were here.
She won a national championship and she was a big part of that. Obviously Lauren got hurt in that national championship game, and so a great player. I think a great player that developed her game. I think she’s the No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft. If she’s not, I’ll be disappointed, but that’s Mike Tebo choice.”
Smith is one of the most decorated Bears in program history, but was looking to do something that no Bear has ever done—win multiple national championships. Had she done that, perhaps she is considered the best ever.
Instead, Smith had arguably her worse outing ever and may be knocked off of Baylor’s Mount Rushmore in some people’s eyes. Fitting that the team to do it is named for the state where the monument with the faces lives.
Queen Egbo had 13 points and seven rebounds but battled foul trouble for much of the game. Sarah Andrews had eight points, Caitlin Bickle had six points and both Asberry and Jordan Lewis each had five points.
The duo of Sjerven and Lamb finished with 16 and 15 points respectively and were a big reason why South Dakota shot 50 percent from three. Liv Korngable added 11 more.
“Just a very special moment.” Korngable acknowledged. “You know, to grow up watching Baylor play at a high level and have continued to do so, and then to find some confidence in yourself of our abilities and what we can accomplish is very cool.”
The biggest basket of the game may have been Maddie Krull’s only basket of the game: an AND-1 finish with 2:53 left in the fourth quarter to keep the game just out of reach for Baylor.
Entering the fourth quarter, South Dakota was up 49-36 but failed to score until Krull’s athletic bucket. But during that time, Baylor could only muster six points themselves to still face a seven-point deficit.
During that last scoring drought, South Dakota coach Dawn Plitzuweit was banking on her team’s fearlessness and defensive fortitude and just hoping there would not be enough time left:
“Well, at that point in time all I was thinking is, Boy, I hope possessions are really long for both of us because then we have a chance to hold onto this lead. I think our players, we made some adjustments on what matchups were and kind of moved Hannah and Kyah back and forth to try and make life a little bit different — give her some different looks.
I thought our players understood some ways that Baylor likes to score in quicker scenarios to attack. The three post lineup is not something we’ve seen a lot out of them, and so when they came to that, we kind of had a flashback to when that happened to us at the Pentagon early in the season against South Carolina.”
Afterwards, time just kept slipping away for the Bears and free throws sealed it for the Coyotes.
It was without a doubt the worse loss in Baylor program history. It was their first non-conference home loss in over eight years. Their last was when No. 1 UConn came into Waco and won 66-55 on January 13, 2014.
For Baylor, their season ends with losing two out of three games. The Bears just did not seem to be as strong mentally to start each of those last three contests and were beginning to be physically banged up. After winning 14 of 15 to clinch their 12th straight Big 12 title, it seemed that they just ran out of gas.
When asked to pinpoint any specific reason for this, an emotional Bickle said, “You never know whether it’s a mental toll, physical toll. You never know kind of individually what each player is feeling or thinking at that moment. So I don’t think there is any one specific answer.”
There may not be a specific reason for any given loss, but the sadness is the same afterwards nevertheless.
For Baylor, it was a tough weekend with earlier than anticipated second round emotional exits in the NCAA Tournaments after winning the Big 12 regular season crowns.