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Long Range Shooting Lifts Baylor Over Cyclones
March 14, 2009
Championship Central

By Wendell Barnhouse |
Big 12 Correspondent

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - The calendar says the Valentine's Day was a month ago. The postseason can rewrite the calendar.

It was a basketball version of Valentine's Day - players with big hearts - when No. 2 Baylor faced No. 3 Iowa State Saturday in the semifinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women's Championship.

They were playing for a date in Sunday's title game against No. 4 seed Texas A&M, another team with large tickers. And even though both teams are assured of reaching the NCAA Tournament, the Lady Bears and the Cyclones asked for and gave no quarter.

During the final five minutes, Baylor (26-5) made enough plays to scratch out a 63-57 victory and set up a third meeting with the Aggies.

"Who else would we want to face?," said Baylor senior Rachel Allison, who scored 24 points. "They're a great team and athletic and I think that they're a good match up for us."

Baylor took a 42-30 lead five minutes into the second half after Allison completed a three-point play. But the Cyclone - bouyed by the return of senior guard Heather Ezell - wouldn't go away.

Iowa State relied on its specialty, the 3-point shot, to overcome the deficit. Amanda Nisliet's 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Iowa State a 52-48 lead with 5:20 remaining.

That comeback displayed the Cyclones' valentines.

"All of Iowa State's players play like warriors," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "They give you everything they have and they never get rattled."

And Mulkey's roster is full of similar players.

Jessica Morrow countered Nisleit's 3-pointer with a three of her own to pull Baylor within one. Three possessions later Morrow nailed a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer to give Baylor a 54-52 lead. And with 1:49 to play, Morrow hit another 3-pointer for a 61-57 lead.

"For some reason, we had a hard time guarding her," Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said of Morrow. "When we made a defensive mistake, she stuck a three on us. That's what great players do. That's what great teams find a way to do."

Morrow's last 3-pointer was made possible by a teeth-rattling screen set by Baylor sophomore Melissa Jones. The Lady Bears' sophomore only scored four points with eight rebounds but her heart-felt play often doesn't show up in the box score.

"Melissa does all the things that outside of rebounding you don't see on the stat sheets," Baylor senior guard Jhasmin Player said. "Helping everybody defensively, getting offensive boards. If I am coming off a screen, I want M.J. to set it. She was setting the stagger (screen) that was getting Jess wide open. That's what M.J. does."

* One of the promotions being held during the men's and women's tournament games allows a fan selected at random to take the court and try to make five shots from five spots around the lane. Each shot wins a $100 gas card from tournament sponsor Phillips 66. Linda Allison from Jonesboro, Ark., was selected and made all five shots during a first half break during the Baylor-Iowa State game. Her daughter is Baylor senior forward Rachel Allison.

* Baylor's Jessica Morrow had a season-high 24 points. She was 6-of-8 on 3-pointers and the six threes were a career high.

* Baylor shot a season-high 64 percent from 3-point range (9-of-14).

* Baylor's only Big 12 Championship came in 2005 and was a prelude to its national championship run.

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