AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Longhorns have made some big strides in their second year under coach Karen Aston. Just not big enough to catch the top program in the Big 12, even on a day when the nation's leading scorer was struggling to find her shot.
Baylor's Odyssey Sims shook off a poor first half to finish with 34 points, pushing No. 7 Baylor to a 72-56 win over the Longhorns that kept the Lady Bears firmly in the lead in the chase for their fourth consecutive Big 12 title.
Nneka Enemkpali had 10 points and nine rebounds for the Longhorns (17-8, 8-5), delivering the only consistent performance in the game Texas committed 26 turnovers and had just one field goal over the first 11 minutes of the second half.
Baylor (22-3, 12-1) collected its eighth consecutive victory. Texas dropped just its second home loss of the season and first in the Big 12.
Aston called it an "uncharacteristic " effort by a team that she thought had left behind the blunders of a 12-18 finish in her first season.
"Careless with the basketball," Aston said. "I thought we were past that. Credit to Baylor. They force you to be a little bit frantic with their defense."
Sims scored 44 when the teams first played two weeks earlier. She was 3-of 15 shooting in the first half of the rematch, but scored 22 points in the second half.
After making her first two attempts and scoring Baylor's first five points, Sims was 1 of 12 for the rest of the half. Her frustration showed as Sims at one point held up her hands and shook her head after missing a 3-pointer.
"It was nothing they were doing defensively," said Sims, who averages 30 points. "I was getting good looks. I'm usually not that wide open coming out of screens."
Baylor led 24-16 before a nearly five-minute scoring drought helped Texas close within 24-21 behind five straight points from Imani McGee-Stafford. The Lady Bears closed the half with a 6-0 run behind a 3-pointer by Niya Johnson and three free throws by Sims.
"We missed so many (shots) in the first half that were good shots for us and still had a nine-point lead," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Sims converted a three-point play to start the second half. Texas answered with a basket by Kelsey Lang but wouldn't get another for nearly 10 minutes.
The Longhorns were just 3 of 13 from 3-point range and shot just 38 percent from the field for the game. Texas was just as cold from the free throw line, making just 13 of 26.
"We had missed free throws and missed easy buckets when we could have stayed in the game," Aston said.
The Longhorns were still within 10 points with 12:30 left when Baylor used a 20-3 run to push the lead as high as 27. Sims started the run with five straight points and made a 3-pointer that put Baylor ahead 52-28.
"Coach called a timeout and said, 'They taste blood, they're going for it,'" Enemkpali said. "We couldn't find an answer."