WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: No. 1 Bears dodge upset by Cowgirls
By Cliff Brunt
STILLWATER, Okla. — Baylor’s stay at the top nearly was very short.
Lauren Cox had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 1 Baylor rallied to beat Oklahoma State 66-58 on Wednesday night.
Juicy Landrum scored 15 points while Kalani Brown added 11 points and 12 rebounds for Baylor (18-1, 8-0 Big 12), which moved to No. 1 this week after Notre Dame’s loss to North Carolina.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey expected her team to be tested because of its ranking and Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell’s preparation. The Lady Bears outscored the Cowgirls 20-10 in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory.
“I think they understood the target, but guys, whether we were No. 1 or No. 2, you’re going to get that kind of performance out of well-coached teams,” Mulkey said.
Freshman guard Ja’Mee Asberry scored a season-high 22 points and Vivian Gray and Braxtin Miller each added 12 for Oklahoma State. The Cowgirls (12-7, 3-5) were seeking their first win over a No. 1 team in seven tries.
“I thought our kids really competed hard, hooked it up and really gave us an opportunity to win,” Littell said. “When you get that close and you’re right there, it’s disappointing that you don’t finish it out.”
Mulkey said she felt the Lady Bears did a good job against Gray and Miller, but Asberry was better than expected. She made 6 of 8 3-pointers.
The Lady Bears countered Asberry’s effort by outscoring Oklahoma State 24-7 at the free throw line.
“I guess we fouled a lot and they didn’t foul that much,” Littell said. “I can’t say anything, I can’t talk about it, I’m not going to talk about officiating, but we can’t foul that much and send people to the free throw line.”
Oklahoma State led 14-13 at the end of the first quarter, just the third time this season that Baylor trailed at the end of the first.
The Lady Bears led 29-27 at halftime, despite shooting just 27 percent from the field. Asberry, who averages 6.3 points per game, had 11 at the break.
Asberry scored seven quick points in a 74-second span early in the third quarter to give Oklahoma State a 37-33 lead, and the Cowgirls led 48-46 heading into the fourth.
Cox drained a three-pointer in the first minute of the fourth quarter to put Baylor up 51-48, and the Lady Bears never trailed again.
“We just kind of hung around,” Mulkey said. “They’d make their runs, and then at the end, just executed some things, made our free throws.”
• Baylor: The Lady Bears didn’t play like their normal selves until the second half, but their size and athletic ability eventually won them a road game against a solid team.
“It’s hard to win, guys,” Mulkey said. “It’s hard to win on the road against well-coached teams.”
• Oklahoma State: The Cowgirls lost their third straight, but they proved they can compete with any team in the Big 12.
“I’m very proud of our team,” Littell said.
Even with the close call, the Lady Bears shouldn’t fall from No. 1 unless they lose on Saturday. They hold a head-to-head win over No. 2 UConn.
SHE SAID IT
Mulkey on her team’s struggles getting the ball to Brown in the first half: “I felt like we were just standing, watching, thinking all of a sudden the sea was going to part in that lane and Kalani was going to be wide open. You’ve got to create your own offense sometimes athletically.”
Baylor hosts Texas Tech on Saturday.
Oklahoma State plays at TCU on Sunday.