OKLAHOMA CITY--As soon as Baylor’s 65-61 win over Oklahoma State was in the books, Bears players went through a quick wardrobe change.
The players each donned white shirts with “400” in green across the chest, signifying Baylor coach Kim Mulkey’s 400th career victory.
It wasn’t easy for the Bears, who fought through struggles for star Odyssey Sims to advance to the Big 12 Championship final against West Virginia
Monday at 8 p.m. CDT. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
Sims, who came in averaging nearly 30 points per game, looked like she had a chance to dominate the game early, as she’d done so many times this season for the Bears.
She scored five quick points in the opening minutes before Oklahoma State’s triangle-and-two defense got to the senior guard.
After Sims’ early outburst, however, the only other basket she hit for the rest of the first half was on an offensive rebound try with just more than eight minutes remaining where Sims leapt into the air and knocked the ball up and through the rim while she tried to snag the rebound. Over the course of the game, Sims continued to struggle with her shot as the OSU defense adjusted. She finished the game with 17 points, but on cold six-of-22 (27.3 percent) shooting. She missed all five 3-pointers she attempted.
“I just don’t know if there’s anybody in the country that’s guarded like her," said Mulkey. "I mean, you think of the players that are up for Player of the Year, the positions that they play, they don’t see that kind of defense. They don’t see three and four players, fresh players, come at her and then a double-team here and a triangle-and-two and a box-and-one. You know, it wears on you because good coaches and good teams aren’t just going to let her come down and shoot it, so they make it difficult for her.”
“I thought we did a nice job on Odyssey,” Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. “If somebody would have told me we held her to 17 going in, I would have taken that. But the second part of the triangle-and-two was we were not to lose (Makenzie) Robertson, and we lost her about three or four times and she hit shots out of the corner.”
Robertson, who is Mulkey's daughter, hit three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points.
Nina Davis led Baylor (28-4) with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“She’s just one of those players that when the game is over, you don’t realize she had another double-double,” Mulkey said. “She just does her job in there, and she had to guard (Brittney) Martin, so she wasn’t just doing it on the offensive end. She had to guard Martin, and Martin is playing very well right now.”
“They take turns and then two of them do it at a time and three at a time and throw this one at her,” Mulkey said of the interplay between Sims and Davis. “She sees it all.
Baylor led by nine after Sims' final first-half put-back, and eventually took a nine-point lead into the break, but could never stretch the lead further.
The Cowgirls steadily cut the lead throughout the second half, pulling as close as two points on Kendra Suttles’ layup with 8:19 left in the game.
But Robertson hit another of those corner 3-pointers a few seconds later and Oklahoma State never got that close again.
Several times, the Cowgirls had chances to get closer with a stop and a score, but OSU couldn’t come up with many stops late and when they did, didn’t get a good look on offense.
“That was our fault on our end playing on the court,” Tiffany Bias said. “I think when we have the momentum on our side we need to slow down and keep that momentum on our side. I think we learned from it today that slow the ball up when we don’t have something and get a good shot on our offense."
Suttles hit a layup to cut the Oklahoma State deficit to four with 45 seconds left but the Cowgirls didn’t foul, instead letting the Bears take nearly 30 seconds off the clock.
Sims had the ball for much of the possession.
“We probably should have fouled,” Littell said. “One reason, she’s about an 80 percent free-throw shooter, 85 percent free-throw shooter, and we should have.
“Did that one play make the difference in the ballgame? Probably not, but we should have fouled on the rebound is where we should have fouled. And we wanted to do that before it got into Odyssey’s hands.”
Martin led Oklahoma State (23-8) with 11 points and 15 rebounds. Suttles also had 11.
The Cowgirls alternated wins through their last 14 games, dating back to Jan. 22.
“I think you see everything within this league,” Littell said. “You see great zone out of TCU, you see man-to-man teams, you see athleticism, you see size, you see scorers.
“I think when we get to the NCAA Tournament there’s probably not a whole lot that you haven’t seen or you haven’t prepared for.
“I just think this league is, from top to bottom, the best in the country, and it prepares you to
play in the NCAA Tournament.”