ARLINGTON, Texas- Preseason AP All-America forward NaLyssa Smith had 21 points with 16 rebounds, Ja’mee Asberry added 17 points with five 3-pointers and seventh-ranked Baylor pulled away in the second half for an 81-54 victory over Texas-Arlington on Thursday night.
Asberry, the junior transfer from Oklahoma State, put the Bears (2-0) ahead to stay with a tiebreaking layup just 1:38 before halftime, and added 3-pointer less than a minute later. She opened the scoring in the second half with another 3.
“When we touch the paint and kick it out like we did in transition … those are just those are layups for her,” Bears coach Nicki Collen said. “She just keeps the defense stretched and she’s so unassuming.”
After only three points on 1-of-7 shooting in her Baylor debut two nights earlier, Asberry was asked if she felt like she was breaking out of a preseason slump that included an exhibition game.
The humble Asberry responded `hopefully,” but teammate Caitlin Bickle enthusiastically interjected, “Yeah, she did.”
Sarah Andrews added 15 points and Jordan Lewis 12 for Baylor.
The Lady Mavs, in their season opener, got 14 points from transfer Starr Jacobs, though all of those were in the first half before playing on four minutes after that because of fatigue. Terryn Milton had eight points and eight rebounds.
Collen, the former WNBA coach in Atlanta, coached her first road game for the Bears in the UT-Arlington campus arena that is home to the WNBA’s Dallas Wings.
Smith, who finished 8-of-9 shooting from the field, had her 26th career double-double. In the third quarter, when Baylor outscored UTA 20-9, Smith had two steals that she turned into points. There was a breakaway layup on the first one, and she was fouled after the second one, making both free throws for a 51-35 lead.
UTA returned four starters from a team that went 11-4 in the Sun Belt last season. The Lady Mavs were picked third in conference preseason poll just ahead of Texas State, which lost 77-70 in Baylor’s opener two nights earlier. The Bears didn’t let UTA stay close.
“We turned a 14-point lead into an 18-point lead into a 25-point lead,” Collen said. “We just never let them back in because we took care of the basketball for the most part, and we defended.”
Bickle, a 6-foot-senior forward, played a career-high 29 minutes off the bench. She had seven points, eight rebounds, three assists and drew three charges.
“She’s just such a good utility player. She stays within the framework of what she’s good at,” Collen said. “You know she’s going to battle. She’s physical.”
Bickle was sore and planned to spend most of Friday’s off day resting, but loves every minute on the floor.
“I just always want to be the glue player,” Bickle said. “I feel like I just want things looking smooth out there. I want us performing at our best. ”
Baylor: The Bears are still adjusting to their more pro-style offense, but shot the ball much better from beyond the arc. Asberry’s 3 at the end of the first quarter for a 24-15 lead was already their fourth of the game – they were 4 of 25 on 3s in the opener. They finished 9 of 25 from long range and shot 46% (29 of 63) overall.
UT-Arlington: After trailing by nine at the end of the first quarter, Jacobs scored the first 10 points in UTA’s 13-4 run to start the second quarter. The Lady Mavs tied it at 28 on Claire Chastain’s 3-pointer – their only one while going 1 of 17 from long range. They also got even at 30-30 and 32-32, but never went ahead. They trailed 38-32 at halftime.
Baylor plays are home against New Orleans on Monday night, its third game in seven days to open the season.
UT-Arlington is home Saturday to play Sam Houston.