AMES, Iowa (AP) Baylor thrived in its first season without Brittney Griner by relying heavily on Odyssey Sims, the nation’s leading scorer.
Sims went cold with the Big 12 title on the line, but the Lady Bears proved to be deep enough to clinch a share of a fourth straight league crown.
Freshman Nina Davis scored 26 points to help No. 9 Baylor earn a piece of the Big 12 title by beating Iowa State 70-54 on Tuesday night.
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The Lady Bears won despite a season-low 11 points from Sims, who entered play averaging 30.2 points a game. But her first basket was a big one, as it put Baylor ahead 59-44 with 4:39 left.
The Lady Bears (26-4, 16-2 Big 12) finished the regular season tied with West Virginia atop the conference. But they have the top seed in the Big 12 tournament due to a tiebreaker.
”I don’t know that anyone knew what we should expect from my team this year. We knew we had Odyssey Sims, and we didn’t know what else,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. ”We knew what we thought their potential was, but until you throw them out there on the floor and let them get their feet wet, you just really didn’t know. I’m just so happy that they know what it feels like to be a champion.”
Nikki Moody had 17 points and Hallie Christofferson scored 14 for Iowa State (20-9, 9-9), which was outrebounded 48-32. The Cyclones are the fifth seed in the Big 12 tournament and will face Oklahoma State on Saturday.
”We got killed on the backboards,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. ”We could not hit a big shot when we had to have it.”
Baylor entered Sunday’s game against West Virginia just a win shy of its fourth straight league title. But the surging Mountaineers stunned Baylor in Waco, 71-69, to pull even with the Lady Bears heading into the season finale.
West Virginia clinched a piece of its first Big 12 title by beating Kansas 67-60 earlier Thursday. But while the Mountaineers were cutting down the nets in Morgantown, the Lady Bears found themselves in a surprising fight with the Cyclones.
Davis helped pull them through.
Davis converted back-to-back 3-point plays and hit a jumper in traffic to put Baylor up 50-38. Sims effectively finished off the Cyclones on a runner with 3:18 left that gave the Bears a 62-47 lead.
Sims finished just 4 of 16 from the floor in 32 minutes – though Mulley said that the shoulder Sims fell on against West Virginia wasn’t a factor.
Sune Agbuke chipped in with nine points and 11 rebounds and Niya Johnson had eight assists.
”Odyssey is human, and she made big buckets down the stretch, as you expect All-Americans to do. The other players just kept playing,” Mulkey said.
It was hard to imagine that Iowa State could hang as close as it did after the first meeting with Baylor back on Feb. 19.
Baylor blew out the Cyclones 89-51 by shooting 54 percent, hitting nine 3s and scoring 20 points off of 19 Iowa State turnovers.
Iowa State bounced back with three straight wins to solidify its hopes for an at-large NCAA tournament bid. But the Cyclones again fell behind big early, and even shutting down Sims wasn’t enough.
Sims, whose previous season low was 17 points, went scoreless on 0 of 6 shooting in the first half. Baylor still led by as much as 13 with Christofferson in early foul trouble, though the Cyclones were able to cut it to 31-24 by halftime.
But Davis and the Lady Bears managed to shake off the loss to West Virginia, survive a rare bad night from Sims and win for the 14th time in 15 games.
”I knew (Sims) was off from the beginning of the game when she started missing shots. I knew that someone had to pick the slack up,” Davis said.