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No. 7 Baylor's Defense Leads Way Past Texas
February 16, 2014
By Wendell Barnhouse | Correspondent

AUSTIN, Texas – The saying goes that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. Stats can be made to sing and dance to the point of winning a Tony Award.

But statistics are also cold, hard facts. There are certain numbers that are inarguable. Such as: Texas had six more turnovers than field goals. And you know the other saying, “Statistics are for losers.”

No. 7 Baylor hassled and harassed the Longhorns Sunday. The Lady Bears stayed in first place with a 72-56 victory over Texas (17-8, 8-5) In the annual Shoot for a Cure game to help raise breast cancer awareness. The Longhorns lost their first home game in league play and the only other home loss at come to a top-10 team (Stanford) in November.

“The turnovers really hurt us,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “We were trying to make home run plays. Today, it was about offense and turnovers.”

The only bad news for Baylor was that No. 13 West Virginia, the Lady Bears’ closest pursuers in the Big 12 standings, overcame an upset bid by TCU and prevailed on their home court, overcoming a 13-point first-half deficit to beat the Horned Frogs, 61-57.

Baylor averages 87 points a game and lighting up the scoreboard obscures the Lady Bears’ penchant for making life miserable for opposing offenses. Baylor has allowed one team in the last 278 games to make over half its shots. Texas never came close to changing that note.

“We always want to make teams turn the ball over,” said Baylor’s Odyssey Sims, who was four points above her national-best average with 34 points. “We’re good on defense, our pressure on the wings and in the post is very good. We played good team defense and forced them to turn the ball over.”

“People don’t talk about how we get out there and play defense,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “You have to guard people if you play at Baylor.”

These teams faced off just 15 days ago in Waco and the Austin version wasn’t much different. In the Ferrell Center, Texas was hack happy, committing 37 founds and sending the Lady Bears to the line 44 times.

In the rematch, the Longhorns were too charitable. Texas committed 26 turnovers, one shy of its season high. The Longhorns also had self-inflicted wounds by missing half of its 26 free throws and at least 10 close-in shots.

“In the first half, we hung in but we missed some easy shots and missed some free throws,” Aston said. “We were uncharacteristically frantic, it was a bad day for us. We tried to hurry and we weren’t patient in reversing the ball. Credit to Baylor, they force you to be in a hurry and play faster than you want.”

Baylor asserted itself with a 9-0 run to build an 18-11 run with 13:01 remaining. The remainder of the first 20 minutes only added to UT’s frustration. The Lady Bears missed 18 of their final 21 shots in the first half. During that cold spell, the Longhorns gained no traction as Baylor was able to expand its lead to 30-21 at halftime.

“We missed so many high-percentage shots in the first half and we still had a nine point lead,” Mulkey said. “Our defense was better than our offense in the first half.”

Baylor shot 33.3 percent in the first half and Texas shot 32.1 percent.

“We came in focused on defense and we showed great improvement but they also got a lot of second-chance rebounds,” said UT’s Nneka Enemkpali, who finished with 10 points and nine rebounds. “They had a little bit more heart and grit, they made the hustle plays.”

Spanning the first and second half, Texas had 17 possessions and turned it over nine times. Even so, Baylor’s offensive struggles – missing 27 of 31 shots at one stretch – had the Longhorns trailing just 36-28 with 12:45 remaining.

Sims scored 13 of Baylor’s 20 points during a run that erased all doubts and built the Lady Bears’ lead to 58-31. At that point, UT was 10-of-49 from the field and had committed 25 turnovers.

“They came out hungrier in the second half,” Enemkpali said. “Coach called a timeout and said, ‘They taste blood.’ We couldn’t, at that moment, respond to what they were doing. We didn’t play with enough fight.”

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