March 9, 2024 

Big 12 Tournament Day 2: Stalwarts set up quarterfinal Saturday

Baylor, TCU, Kansas and West Virginia advance

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Making its first appearance at Kansas City’s T-Mobile Center, the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Tournament brought the heat on a cold and dreary day. The move to T-Mobile Center, which seats nearly 19,000 and has traditionally hosted the men’s side of the tournament, from the Municipal Auditorium, which seats 10,700, left an impression on Baylor’s Sarah Andrews, who noted that among other differences, “the locker room is huge now.”

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“It’s amazing because I think women’s basketball has grown tremendously in the last few months and to get our own weekend you know, we love it,” Andrews said. “This is a nice arena to play in and you know, everybody wants to cut down the nets for the first time.”

Here’s a recap of Friday’s action, with a look ahead to the quarterfinals on Saturday:

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Baylor puts on the press to hold off Texas Tech

Leading by just two points at the start of the fourth quarter, fifth-seeded Baylor reached deep into the playbook to create some separation from Texas Tech. The tactic worked, as the Bears eased their way to a 71-60 victory.

“I thought our press, which we haven’t run since maybe the third practice of the year in October, I thought that was really, really effective to change the energy of the game,” Baylor head coach Nikki Collen said. “We got in passing lanes, we got turnovers. I thought Yaya [Felder] was a big lift off the bench for us today. I thought, in general, we shot the ball and we took care of it.”

Baylor scored the first eight points of the game to knock Texas Tech back on its heels. The Bears held a comfortable lead until midway through the third when the Red Raiders put together their run. 

“Defensively, I think our mindset just shifted,” Baylor’s Aijha Blackwell said. “We could have picked it up, and I think we did in the fourth quarter, the ball screen coverage specifically. Excuse me, I’m stuttering so bad. We had to get back on the ball screen coverage, and I think we did better in the fourth.”

Andrews and Blackwell led the Bears with 13 and 11 points respectively. Felder and Bella Fontleroy each added 10. Texas Tech’s Jasmine Shavers scored a game-high 20 points including nine in the third quarter.

The Bears will face fourth-seeded Iowa State at 11 a.m. CT on Saturday.

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Unsung hero steps up for TCU to knock off Oklahoma State

TCU coach Mark Campbell let out a sigh of relief and sat down to address the media after Friday afternoon’s victory against Oklahoma State. 

His Horned Frogs, who were forced to hold open tryouts just over a month ago due to a litany of injuries, survived a 13-2 run at the end of the third quarter and advanced to the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals in a 68-66 win over the Cowgirls.

“Well, March Madness is here,” Campbell said. “Obviously, we didn’t want to make it easy on ourselves up 12 and allowed them to make a comeback, but we were able to finish it off. Just a great all-around performance and we’re super excited to survive another day.”

TCU held an eight-point lead at halftime and steadily built that up to a dozen at one point, but gave up 10 straight points at the end of the third quarter to enter the final period trailing by one. The score was tied with 48 seconds on the clock before graduate transfer Sedona Prince sealed the victory at the charity stripe.

Agnes Emma-Nnopu, who won a national title with Stanford in 2021, scored eight of her 17 points for TCU in the final period and drained five three-pointers in the contest. Campbell credited the senior with bringing added experience and resilience to the squad during a tumultuous year. Junior guard Una Jovanovic led TCU with a season-high 22 points, while Oklahoma State’s Quincy Noble led all scorers with 26. 

“I think that [experience] was evident that you could see in her spirit, getting extra possessions, taking big-time shots for us, but we’re leaning on Aggie right now during this March time period,” Campbell said.

The Horned Frogs will face top-seeded Oklahoma in the quarterfinals at 1:30 p.m. CT on Saturday. It will be TCU’s second-consecutive appearance in the quarterfinal.

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Kansas feeds off the Jayhawk fans’ energy to beat BYU

Taking the court just 45 minutes away from their home at Allen Fieldhouse, the Kansas Jayhawks used the energy of the crowd to cruise to a 77-53 victory against BYU.

“I thought our guys really adjusted well defensively late in the second quarter and then on into the second half in terms of just doing a better job of guarding the ball, protecting the paint,” Kansas coach Brandon Schneider said. “I thought BYU was terrific early in the game in attacking the paint and forcing us into a lot of situations where we had to rotate. Once we shored that up, I was proud of how we defended.”

The Jayhawks scored the first seven points of the game, then gave up eight straight. Both teams battled through the half but Kansas took momentum into the locker room, piecing together a 10-2 run before the break. The lead grew throughout the second half, ballooning to 24 points before Schneider’s starters headed for the bench. 

As a result, Kansas picked up its third victory against the Big 12 newcomers and won its first game at the Big 12 Tournament since 2019. It is also the team’s ninth victory in 10 games. 

“I know in the back of my mind, that’s kind of the first thing I was thinking about is, man, we’ve been here and fighting for this win for so long and then to come out and have such a big margin of victory and capitalize it like that,” Kansas senior Holly Kersgieter said. “It’s kinda just something extra special to have to celebrate.”

All five starters finished in double figures for the Jayhawks, led by Zakiyah Franklin with 20. Now, the Jayhawks prepare to face second-seeded Texas with an opportunity to polish their NCAA Tournament resume after winning the WNIT title a year ago. That game starts at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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West Virginia uses big run to burst away from Cincinnati

The West Virginia Mountaineers capped the day’s action with a commanding 70-55 victory against the Cincinnati Bearcats, thanks in large part to a massive mid-game run. The two teams traded baskets early before a 17-0 run by the Mountaineers all but put the game away. 

“After those first couple minutes, I thought we settled in pretty quickly,” coach Mark Kellogg said. “We got some perimeter shots to fall so I thought that loosened us up a little bit and got the rim a little bit bigger for us and I thought our defense took over from there and really allowed us to get going on the offensive end.”

They held a 24-10 lead at the end of the first and grew the lead to 21 in the second half with a balanced offensive attack which saw four players finish in double figures. They were stifling on defense too, forcing 23 turnovers and converting those into 20 points on the opposite end. J.J. Quinerly led the Mountaineers with 18 points.

The sixth-seeded Mountaineers now prepare to face Kansas State, a team they took to overtime on Feb. 21 before falling 73-68. That game tips off at 8 p.m.

The Bearcats were the only one of the Big 12’s four newcomers to pick up a win in their first conference tournament, beating fellow newcomer UCF on Thursday. The tournament will look different again next year, with Oklahoma and Texas departing for the SEC while Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah join from the Pac-12.

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Written by Kathleen Gier

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