AUSTIN, Texas — NaLyssa Smith scored 23 points and No. 6 Baylor used a dominant third quarter to build a lead, then had to fight off a late Texas rally to earn a 64-57 victory Monday night that locked up sole possession of the Big 12 title for the Lady Bears.
Baylor had already clinched a least a share of the program’s 12th league championship and 11th in a row, and the victory locked out any chance West Virginia had of staking a claim to the crown.
Smith scored eight in the third quarter when Baylor broke open what had a been a close but sloppy game in a rematch of a 25-point Lady Bears win earlier this season. The Lady Bears stretched the lead to as many as 18 points before Texas rallied midway through the fourth quarter, when Baylor piled up foul trouble.
Smith made two 3-pointers in the fourth, the second one giving the Lady Bears a 60-47 lead with just under 3 minutes left.
Baylor (20-2, 15-1) has won 10 in a row over Texas and 25 of the last 26 meetings. Joanne Allen-Taylor scored 15 points to lead Texas (16-8, 10-7).
Baylor was sloppy early with six turnovers in the first quarter but built a 19-11 lead as Texas started just 3 of 15 shooting. The Longhorns’ offense then woke up with a pair of 3-pointers from Audrey Warren as Texas closed the half with an 11-5 run that cut the Baylor lead to 24-22.
Baylor cleaned up the turnovers in an offensive burst in the third quarter. Three quick baskets in the opening minute forced a Texas timeout. Smith score seven and Baylor’s lead ballooned to 38-24, forcing a second Texas timeout before the Longhorns had made their second basket of period.
Texas coach Vic Schaefer was then assessed a technical for arguing a foul call. Smith made both free throws, then a fall-away baseline jumper as the Lady Bears kept stretching the lead. Dijoni Carrington’s three-point play with 1.6 seconds left in the quarter sent Baylor into the fourth leading 50-36.
Baylor: The Lady Bears are on their usual roll toward the postseason but seem unlikely to sneak into a No. 1 seed for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Still, the Lady Bears lead the nation in field goal defense, rebounding margin and assists per game. Baylor committed 23 turnovers, but held Texas to 32% shooting, forced 19 turnovers and outrebounded Texas 34-28.
Texas: Schaefer was hired away from powerhouse Mississippi State to rebuild a Longhorns program tired of watching Baylor and coach Kim Mulkey dominate the Big 12. He’s still got a lot of work to do after getting swept by the Lady Bears this season. But help is on the way with a highly regarded recruiting class that should bring immediate help next season. Landing five-star recruits is the first step to challenging Mulkey at the top.
Baylor plays at Kansas on Saturday.
Texas plays at TCU on Sunday