By Michael Haag | Sports editor
Due to the freezing conditions, the Baylor women’s basketball team felt it would be difficult for people to go out and support them Wednesday night. The Bears had the University of Kansas on deck and only 1,157 fans were able to show up.
For reference, the Ferrell Center holds up to 10,284 people for a basketball game.
As a result, young guard Sarah Andrews said “we had to build our own energy” for Baylor to end up holding off Kansas 77-73 Wednesday night at the Ferrell Center. Andrews also noted that those fans in attendance played a large part in the victory.
“Above all, we’re grateful for the people who were able to come,” Andrews said. “They were very loud, the ones that managed to come, so I think we fed a lot of them tonight, and we appreciate that.”
Andrews was one of four Bears in double figures, as he had 23 points on seven of 14 from the field. He also dished out a career-high eight assists and recorded three steals and three blocks. According to Her Hoop Stats, Andrews became just the fourth player in NCAA Division I since 2009-10 to earn at least 20 points, eight assists, three steals and three blocks in a single game and is the first to do so since 2019.
Fifth-year senior Caitlin Bickle followed Andrews with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. The freshmen forward tandem of Bella Fontleroy and Darianna Littlepage-Buggs scored 14 and 12 points, respectively. Littlepage-Buggs grabbed a team-best 10 rebounds to secure his ninth double-double of the season.
According to Her Hoop Stats, Littlepage-Buggs joined Brittney Griner (8x) and Nina Davis (7x) as the only Baylor freshman since 2009-10 to earn five double-doubles in championship play.
Baylor (15-6, 6-3 Big 12) had 29 field goals on 22 assists, something head coach Nicki Collen said she loves to see. Collen said it was especially impressive to see that mark against a Jayhawks team (14-6, 4-5 Big 12) that usually squats on assisted buckets.
“If you look [the] percentage of field goals made, like even when we played well up there, a lot of them were unassisted field goals compared to what we normally do,” Collen said. “It’s not easy to get assists against them because of the way they play. They have good individual defenders… They are really good at their help side and are quite big and long.
Andrews said “we’re at our best” when the team shares sugar and has the kind of night he’s had.
“[For opposing defenses]you have to pick your poison,” Andrews said. “Anyone can go out on any given night… We are great when we get 22 assists.”
It took nearly five minutes for both teams to score, but the tally was knotted at 2-2 after a pair of free throws by KU. A second chance bucket by Bickle and two jumpers by Littlepage-Buggs cushioned the Bears’ lead to 12-8 late in the first quarter.
The Jayhawks started to penetrate the lane a little more in the second period and found success on several floaters near the cup. Baylor’s offense held on as they outscored Kansas 22-16 in the quarter, nearly doubling their 12 points in the first.
The Bears finished the second quarter with an 8-2 run to take a 30-28 lead at halftime. In those 10 minutes, Andrews cashed a jump shot and a layup to give her nine points to match with five assists in the first 20 minutes of play.
Baylor’s offense managed to increase its scoring in the third thanks to 23 points to KU’s 17. The Bears found momentum on three consecutive 3-pointers, courtesy of Bickle, Fontleroy and Andrews. But the 11-point lead Baylor built in the sixth minute, a second mark was cut to eight late in the third at 53-45.
Both programs traded field goals for much of the fourth quarter until there was one minute and 42 seconds left. The Jayhawks had cut their deficit to 68-66 after a pair of free throws, resulting in a Collen timeout. Then Andrews returned to the field and scored four points in 20 seconds from layups to solidify Baylor’s lead to 72-66 with one minute and 11 seconds left.
“I haven’t met many other players who can do what Sarah does,” Fontleroy said after the match. “Create space so easily. She’s so smart, she gets to the edge and finishes. All I have to do is follow [her] and bounce just in case. But most of the time, I don’t have to.
Kansas hit a jump shot at the other end before Andrews knocked down two free throws to make it 74-68 with 35 seconds left. Andrews got back on the line after a KU error, hit one of two shots from the streak, and watched the Jayhawks nail a 3-pointer, making it 75-71 with 19 seconds on the clock.
Senior guard Jaden Owens failed to make any of his free throws and Kansas darted down the field and fielded the ball, the tally now 75-73 in favor of the Bears. Andrews received the next drive, was fouled, and proceeded to freeze the game with two clutch free throws, securing a 77-73 Baylor win.
The Bears will travel to Ames, Iowa for a tough conference game against No. 12 Iowa State University. The tip is scheduled for 5pm Saturday at the Hilton Coliseum and the game can be watched on ESPNU.
Fontleroy said the group needs to “carry that same energy” against the top 12 Cyclones (15-5, 7-3 Big 12).
“[We need to] start with the same energy, be ready for the physicality and we know they are a great execution team,” Fontleroy said. feel so and our offensive execution will be able to deal with it.