AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Baylor coach Kim Mulkey summed up the Lady Bears night as “ugly” and sometimes downright hard to watch.
That mattered little when they left the court and got to dress up a postgame celebration with a Big 12 crown they don’t have to share.
NaLyssa Smith scored 23 points and No. 6 Baylor used a dominant third quarter to build a lead, then held a late Texas rally to earn a 64-57 victory Monday night that locked up sole possession of the league championship for the Lady Bears.
Baylor had already clinched a least a share of the program’s 12th league title and 11th in a row, and the win locked out any chance West Virginia had of staking a claim this season.
“Big 12 champion,” Mulkey said. “How can I not be happy? … It was a good, close, ugly game.”
That it was, with 42 turnovers, 43 fouls and a pair of technical fouls on a Baylor player and a Texas coach.
Smith scored eight in the third quarter when Baylor broke open what had a been a close but sloppy game in a rematch of a 25-point Lady Bears win earlier this season. The Lady Bears stretched the lead to as many as 18 points before Texas rallied midway through the fourth quarter, when Baylor piled up foul trouble.
Smith made two 3-pointers in the fourth, the second one giving the Lady Bears a 60-47 lead with just under 3 minutes left.
Baylor (20-2, 15-1) has won 10 in a row over Texas and 25 of the last 26 meetings. Joanne Allen-Taylor scored 15 points to lead Texas (16-8, 10-7).
“Our post players carried us tonight,” Mulkey said. ”Our seniors on the perimeter weren’t very effective.”
Baylor had six turnovers in the first quarter but built a 19-11 lead as Texas started just 3 of 15 shooting. The Longhorns’ offense then woke up with a pair of 3-pointers from Audrey Warren and Texas closed the half with an 11-5 run that cut the Baylor lead to 24-22.
Baylor cleaned up the turnovers in an offensive burst in a 26-point third quarter. Three quick baskets in the opening minute forced a Texas timeout. Smith scored seven and Baylor’s lead ballooned to 38-24, forcing a second Texas timeout before the Longhorns had made their second basket of the period.
Texas coach Vic Schaefer was then assessed a technical for arguing a foul call. Smith made both free throws, then a fall-away baseline jumper as the Lady Bears kept stretching the lead. Dijoni Carrington’s three-point play with 1.6 seconds left in the quarter sent Baylor into the fourth leading 50-36.
Baylor: The Lady Bears are on their usual roll toward the postseason but seem unlikely to sneak into a No. 1 seed for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Still, the Lady Bears lead the nation in field goal defense, rebounding margin and assists per game. Baylor committed 23 turnovers, but held Texas to 32% shooting, forced 19 turnovers and outrebounded Texas 34-28.
Mulkey said she thinks her team is primed for the postseason.
“We’ve been in a pandemic,” said Mulkey, who recovered from COVID-19 earlier this season. “We’re itching to play.”
Texas: Schaefer was hired away from powerhouse Mississippi State to rebuild a Longhorns program tired of watching Baylor and coach Kim Mulkey dominate the Big 12. He’s still got a lot of work to do after getting swept by the Lady Bears this season. But help is on the way with a highly regarded recruiting class that should bring immediate help next season. Landing five-star recruits is the first step to challenging Mulkey at the top.
“Our team got better tonight,” Schaefer said. “I think the country saw tonight what Texas is all about and what we’re going to be in the future.”
Baylor put another defensive wall around Texas forward Charli Collier, a top contender for Big 12 player of the year.
Collier was held to just three shots and two points in the first matchup. She came back with a better performance with 12 points and nine rebounds, but was still well below her average of 21.3 points. She got off two quick shots early, and finished 3 of 12 from the floor as Baylor used multiple defenders to deny her good looks at the basket. Collier fouled out with about 7 minutes to play.
Baylor plays at Kansas on Saturday.
Texas plays at TCU on Sunday
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