WACO, Texas — The book on West Virginia’s Madisen Smith, according to Baylor coach Nicki Collen, is that Smith is a better player at home than on the road.
Smith flipped the script on Saturday night at the Ferrell Center.
Smith had an enormous night for West Virginia in its 63-52 win over Baylor, scoring a career-high 30 points on 9-of-18 shooting, which included a trio of 3-pointers and a 9-for-10 night at the free throw line. She had 20 of those points by halftime as she constantly drove through the lane and drew fouls from Baylor.
“Our defense wasn’t great on her and we fouled her too much in the first half,” Collen said. “Statistically she plays great at home and not on the road and she reversed it.”
Smith’s play was steady throughout, as she also grabbed eight rebounds and dished out a team-high seven assists as the Mountaineers (19-10, 10-8 in Big 12) secured the No. 5 seed in the Big 12 Tournament and will play Oklahoma State next Friday.
“She played incredible,” said West Virginia coach Dawn Plitzuweit. “I don’t know if I had a sense that was coming except that I think she’s someone who has really good energy. During the game, I think she was someone that was imploring her teammates to just to play with toughness and confidence and, boy, she played great.”
Collen called West Virginia forward Kyah Watson an “X-factor” down the stretch. She had 11 points, but made three 3-pointers, including one during a 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter that broke a 46-all tie and gave WVU a 10-point lead it never surrendered.
Plitzuweit said the run came down to better offensive movement and awareness of ball screen and rolls that weren’t working as well earlier in the game.
For Baylor (19-11, 10-8) the loss dropped it to the No. 6 seed and it will play Iowa State in the quarterfinals.
It seemed every time the Bears got close, West Virginia found a way to pull away. Sometimes, it was the WVU offense. Other times it was Baylor turnovers (the Bears had 18). And, it was the free-throw shooting. The Bears were 1-of-9 from the line.
“We’ve been good at the free throw line in conference play,” Collen said. “That was not us.”
Ja’Mee Asberry had 18 points for Baylor on her senior night. Sarah Andrews added 13 points and Darianna Littlepage-Buggs had 11 points.
Baylor’s other senior, Caitlin Bickle, managed just four points and seven rebounds in 38 minutes.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard