Few teams face off with the titans of the Big 12, the No. 3 Baylor Lady Bears, and make it out alive.
And while No. 20 West Virginia (17-5, 5-5 Big 12) made Baylor (19-1, 9-0 Big 12) absorb their stiffest right hook on Sunday, the Lady Bears added the Mountaineers to the ranks of the vanquished, erasing a halftime deficit and seizing control down the stretch to win 83-72 in the WVU Coliseum.
“Baylor is as good of a team as I’ve seen,” head coach Mike Carey said. “They have a lot of weapons, and they’re going to score. Any time you have a 6-7, 6-5 inside, their point guard is a senior, they have athletes around them, they’re really good.”
Facing an overwhelming size disadvantage, the Mountaineers pulled out all the stops in their efforts to hold down 6-foot-7 scoring force Kalani Brown, switching between man and zone and quickly double-teaming her every time she received the ball in the post.
It worked – at least, in the first half. A hot start shooting put WVU up 9 in the first quarter and led them to a 7-point halftime lead, as Brown and 6-foot-4 Lauren Cox combined for just 7 points on 3-10 shooting.
But in the second half, Baylor’s interior superiority established itself. The visitors started the third quarter on a 10-2 run, scoring 20 points in the paint in the frame and grabbing a lead they did not relinquish.
“Their guards got a little more aggressive in the second half, and our gameplan at the beginning was to let them shoot over top of us,” Carey said. “They started hitting a little bit and we went out a little bit, and it opened up the inside.”
As Brown began to wriggle free of West Virginia’s double teams – she finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds – guard Kristy Wallace caught fire, and the Mountaineer offense disappeared. West Virginia failed to score in the last four and a half minutes of the game, while Wallace, who finished with 25 points, buried Carey’s squad with several clutch jumpers.
“We were down 5 and we missed three right at the rim, and we had a wide-open 3 and we didn’t hit that,” Carey said. “They just started building on it. You have to score with them, and we just didn’t score with them.”
Ultimately, as Carey feared, it was Baylor’s advantage down low that pushed them to victory. Baylor outrebounded West Virginia by 16 – including a 23-8 advantage in the second half – and outscored the Mountaineers 42-20 in the paint, nullifying a solid shooting night at home for WVU.
With just eight healthy bodies again, West Virginia wore down at the end of the game – and when leading scorer Naomi Davenport had to hit the bench in the third quarter due to foul trouble, the game swung permanently in Baylor’s favor.
Davenport finished the game with a team-high 27 points on 9-14 shooting, while senior Teana Muldrow added 21 points. Point guard Chania Ray also ably controlled the WVU offense for much of the day, finishing with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 8 assists.
West Virginia is next scheduled to take the court on Saturday, when they go on the road to face Oklahoma (10-11, 5-5) at 3 p.m. in Norman.