KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Baylor forward NaLyssa Smith wanted redemption. She and the Bears got that on Saturday, defeating Oklahoma, 91-76, in the Big 12 Women’s Tournament semifinal.
The Bears (27-5) were playing the only team that had beaten them twice this season. The Bears left nothing to chance, as they built a 20-point lead midway through the third quarter and never let up.
Baylor will face the winner of the Iowa-State Texas game in the Big 12 Championship Game, set for 1 p.m. Sunday. The winner will get the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Baylor is the defending champion.
ESPN’s Charlie Crème, who handles the NCAA Women’s Bracketology for the site, wrote before the game that if Baylor beat Oklahoma, the Bears would likely move up to a No. 1 seed line on Sunday.
The Bears have won their last 12 games, dating back to their loss to Oklahoma on Feb. 2.
Smith, the Big 12 Player of the Year, had her best game against Oklahoma in three meetings, and that’s saying something because she scored 30 points in the first meeting. But Smith passed 30 points by the end of the third quarter, on her way to 37 points and 11 rebounds for the game.
Smith’s discussion about redemption on Saturday was directly related to the two losses to the Sooners (24-8). It was almost as if she took it upon herself to make sure the Bears didn’t lose.
But she did have help. Backup forward Caitlin Bickle had 21 points as she benefited from the Sooners’ persistent defensive attention to Smith. Queen Egbo added 11 points.
The Bears didn’t take the Sooners by surprise. But this game transpired much differently than their first two meetings.
In the Jan. 12 matchup in Norman, which the Sooners won, 83-77, they leaned on balanced scoring, including a 22-point game from Taylor Vann, who was the Big 12 Sixth Player of the Year. The Sooners also shot more than 50 percent from the 3-point line, helping them overcome Smith’s 30 points. OU also went on a 31-18 run to end the game.
In the Feb. 2 meeting at Baylor, Liz Scott played the hero for the Sooners with a go-ahead layup with six seconds left. In that game, the Sooners overcame bad 3-point shooting, going 4-of-20. Plus, the Sooners had to withstand four different Bears in double figures, including 23 points from Sarah Andrews. But Baylor shot 4-of-18 in the fourth quarter, which kept the Bears from putting the game away.
There was no such scoring drought for the Bears or scoring run for the Sooners. While Oklahoma kept it close for the first half, they led the game for just 56 seconds early in the contest. Baylor was up 25-18 at the end of the first quarter and 47-40 at halftime. A 7-0 run to start the third quarter by Baylor put Oklahoma in a corner from which it couldn’t escape.
Madi Williams had a huge game for the Sooners in the loss, scoring 31 points and grabbing eight rebounds. Taylor Robertson added 17 points, including four 3-pointers.
The Sooners are a lock to get an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament, with seeding to be announced on Sunday at 8 p.m. Per ESPN Bracketology, the Sooners were a No. 4 seed entering Saturday’s game, a seed that would allow them to host first- and second-round games in Norman next week.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.
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