STILLWATER, Okla. – To be the best, you have to beat the best. Time will tell if Baylor is still the best in Big 12 women’s basketball. But as of Sunday afternoon, the Lady Bears occupied the spot they’ve been in each of the last three seasons.
No. 10 Baylor took over first place in the standings by battling to a 69-66 overtime victory over No. 9 Oklahoma State Sunday in Gallagher-Iba Arena. It was the first time two top 10 women’s teams had met in the facility’s 75-year history.
“All you can do is get yourself in a position to win games like this,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, whose team is 16-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play. “We didn’t finish against Kentucky, we didn’t finish against Connecticut and we fell apart at Kansas. We could have easily fell apart in this game.”
Two seniors made sure that didn’t happen. Odyssey Sims, who had missed three times as many shots as she had made, scored the winning points on a breakaway layup/three-point play with 4.8 seconds left in overtime. She also picked Tiffany Bias off the dribble at midcourt to erase any chance of a miracle shot.
But Sims’ heroics were made possible by Mackenzie Robertson. She made two 3-pointers in the final 1:36. The first reduced Oklahoma State’s biggest lead (57-53) and the second with six seconds remaining forced overtime.
“I thought Niya (Johnson) was going to shoot it,” said Robertson, who made six of 10 3-point attempts for her 18 points. “I wasn’t sure how much time was left. But I was ready to shoot, I wanted to shoot … and I made it.”
A quick inbounds pass and a dash to the basket almost turned Oklahoma State senior Tiffany Bias into a hero. But her driving layup just rolled off the rim.
“It was one of those things, just get it out and go,” said Bias, who finished with 17 points and five assists. “I saw that I was ahead of everybody. It’s just one of those things, it rolled out.”
Baylor won in atypical fashion. Sims, the nation’s leading scorer at 30.4 points per game, finished 7-of-27 for a season low 17 points. She missed all eight of her 3-point attempts and also committed eight turnovers.
But like metal filings to a magnet, Sims’ presence allowed her to dish a team-high eight assists. Plus, her drives to the basket broke down the Cowgirls’ floor balance.
“When we came off other players to help, she created easy shots for others and that means we don’t get people boxed out,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “The first half, I didn’t know who we were. We were doing some things I had never seen us do before. We were lucky to be down just nine at halftime.”
Baylor had 30 possessions in the first half and 10 of those had more than one shot opportunities. The Lady Bears had a 55-40 rebounding advantage and outscored Oklahoma State 13-5 on second-chance points.
Freshman Nina Davis had 16 points and tied her career-high with 17 rebounds. Mulkey told her assistants that Davis, who had her 17 rebounds against top-ranked Connecticut, should be able to get 17 against Oklahoma State.
“That’s scary,” Mulkey said in reference to her soothsaying ability.
Maybe not as scary as Baylor winning without its national player of the year candidate being the leading scorer.
“For us to win a game like this is huge,” said Davis, who is averaging 13.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. “When Odyssey struggles and we still get the win, it gives everybody confidence.”
The Lady Bears’ went up 45-29 with 15:11 to play on a spinning move in the lane by Davis. Freshman Roshunda Johnson (15 points) sparked the Cowgirls’ rally with two 3-pointers. Oklahoma State took its first lead, 52-51, with 4:52 to play.
“In the first half, we were just playing panicked on offense,” Bias said. “We weren’t helping out on defense. The second half, when we made the run, that all changed.
Kendra Suttles’ three-point play with 1:55 remaining gave the Cowgirls their biggest lead, 57-53. That was the high point. With possession and the scored tied at 66 in overtime, Oklahoma State’s possession fizzled into a forced 3-pointer by Settles. Sims grabbed the air ball and drove for the winning points. The Cowgirls had eight possessions in overtime and scored on two.
Oklahoma State is 17-2 overall and tied for second place with West Virginia with a 6-2 league record. Texas and Oklahoma are tied for fourth place with 4-3 records.
“They put up 13 more shots, we missed some shots we normally make and we missed some free throws,” said Littell, whose team shot 35.5 percent and committed 18 turnovers. “Each one of us could have done a better job, I could have coached better. But when you play a team like Baylor, you’ve got to make plays to beat a team of that caliber.”