AMES, Iowa — Baylor avoided a season sweep against Iowa State on Saturday, and bolstered its Big 12 title chances in the process.
Nalyssa Smith scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as the No. 9 Lady Bears held on to beat the Cyclones 85-77 on Sunday and remain alone atop the Big 12 standings.
The Lady Bears (12-2, 7-1 Big 12) had lost their last two meetings with the Cyclones, including a 75-71 defeat on Jan. 6.
Baylor had not lost three in a row against a Big 12 rival since Oklahoma put together a four-game winning streak against the Lady Bears from 2005 to 2007.
“You don’t want to lose to someone three times,” Bears coach Kim Mulkey said, “but I’m never going to let one game be more important than winning a Big 12 championship.”
Dijonai Carrington contributed 17 points to the Lady Bears’ victory. Moon Ursin added 11 points and 15 rebounds.
Ashley Joens led Iowa State (11-6, 7-3) with 25 points and seven rebounds.
Baylor was sluggish early, hitting just two of its first 11 shots and falling behind the Cyclones 17-11 in the first quarter.
The Lady Bears surged ahead in the second quarter with a 16-5 run to go ahead 38-30.
Baylor overcame its early shooting woes by attacking the basket.
“We’ve been practicing all week using the backboard and the baseline,” Smith said. “So when it goes in during a game it feels good.”
Iowa State took a brief 59-57 lead midway through the third quarter and was within 72-70 early in the fourth.
“I thought our kids battled,” Mulkey said. “We could have lost that game (when Iowa State took the lead). There was a lot of leadership in that timeout.”
Baylor gradually pulled away on consecutive baskets by Smith and a jumper from Carrington that gave the Lady Bears a 78-70 cushion with 4:24 left to play.
The Cyclones were able to stay close by making 12 of their first 21 3-point attempts (57.1 percent) before fading.
Iowa State did not make a basket during the final 4 minutes of the fourth quarter and was outrebounded for the game 51-26.
“That was a great game,” Cyclone coach Bill Fennelly said. “I’m real pleased with the effort of our kids and the way they competed for 40 minutes.
“Obviously, rebounding was the key.”
Joens, who began this weekend as one of only two players nationally averaging more than 24 points and nine rebounds, scored 16 first half points, despite having three fouls.
Baylor has been ranked among the top 10 for 122 straight weeks, dating to 2015, and that string should continue this week. Iowa State drops out of a tie for second place in the Big 12.
Baylor: The Lady Bears’ next three opponents (Kansas, Kansas State and Texas Tech) all have losing records in the Big 12. They host Texas (6-3, 12-4 overall) on Feb. 14.
Iowa State plays at No. 24 West Virginia on Wednesday.