March 13, 2022 

BBQ and Big 12 basketball

The Big 12's stars are shining bright heading into championship Sunday

If there are two things Kansas City is known for, especially in March, it is barbeque and Big 12 basketball. The temperatures have been brisk this week, which means it was the perfect day for burnt ends or brisket before the on-court battles begin. Saturday, March 12, was another fantastic showcase of women’s basketball at the Big 12 Tournament. 

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Some random musings from semifinal Saturday at the 2022 Big 12 Tournament:

  • Oklahoma men’s team lost in their semifinal game to Texas Tech Friday night 56-55. However, the Sooner pep band came back strong for the women’s noon tip-off along with a nice contingent of OU fans. 
  • There were less Baylor fans at the semifinal game than it seems from years past.
  • Whistles were scarce in semifinal #1 – OU’s Jennie Baranczyk and Baylor’s Nicki Collen made their views known on several occasions about the physical play.
  • The father of Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith hit a half-court shot during a halftime contest to take home over $6,000 in free gas. It appears Smith’s family will be on the road a lot these next few weeks so that gift card will come in handy.
  • Two women’s basketball Hall of Fame coaches were in Municipal Auditorium Saturday afternoon – Jody Conradt (Texas) and Sonja Hogg (Baylor). They both were head coaches at their respective institutions when the Big 12 was formed and coached in the inaugural Big 12 Tournament 25 years ago (March 1997).
  • “Hilton South” is a real thing and makes for an outstanding women’s basketball environment.
  • Texas head coach Vic Schaefer stopped to take a large post-game group photo with the Longhorn pep band and spirit squad members. He thanked them for their support and told them ‘to be ready for Sunday’.
Baylor’s NaLyssa Smith was every bit the 2022 Big 12 Player of the Year in a dominating performance against Baylor in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament. (Photo credit: Scott D. Weaver/Big 12 Conference)

Semifinal #1 – Oklahoma vs. Baylor: If the first few minutes of this semifinal match-up were any indication of how tough it is to beat a team three times, Oklahoma was going to need everything in its arsenal to move on to the Big 12 Championship game. Despite missing numerous layups and put backs, the Sooners were only down 47-40 at the half. Baylor scored 24 of their 47 points in the paint in the first 20 minutes. The Lady Bears used a 12-2 run to start the second half and physically wore down Oklahoma. 

Big 12 Player of the Year NaLyssa Smith had another all-American stat line with 37 points (16-32 FGs) and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes. A huge day by Baylor’s Caitlin Bickle (21 points) helped the Lady Bears answer every run by the Sooners. Senior Madi Williams proved again why she is a first-team All-Big 12 selection, posting 33 points and 8 boards. She and Taylor Robertson (17 points) were the only OU players to hit double figures. A big collision in the lane with 2:06 left in the game between OU’s Skylar Vann and Bickle resulted in Vann leaving the game. She left the court on crutches post-game. Vann is a vital part of Oklahoma’s line-up as she was named the 2022 Big 12 Sixth Player of the Year.

After this loss, Oklahoma moves to 24-8 and will return to Norman to get ready for the 2022 NCAA Tournament. They are currently projected on that 4-seed line, hosting the first and second rounds at home. This will be the Sooners’ first trip back to the NCAA Tournament since 2018. Hats off to Baranczyk and her staff in year one for this significant turnaround at OU. 

Baylor head coach Nicki Collen becomes the second first-year head coach to lead their team to the Big 12 Championship game in the conference’s history. Deb Patterson was the only coach other to do it at Kansas State in 1997. Her Wildcats lost 54-44 in the championship game to Colorado that year, against a team that had current TCU head coach Reagan (Scott) Pebley as their starting center.

Semifinal #2 – Texas vs. Iowa State: Texas beat Iowa State twice during the regular season by an average of 21.5 points. The defensive intensity is relentless from Texas and 40 minutes against the Longhorns can feel like survival of the fittest. Iowa State fed off the energy of their “Hilton South” crowd and went 5 for 10 from behind the 3-point line in the first half. Longhorn freshman sensation Rori Harmon had that scorer’s mentality early with nine points in the first quarter (she finished the game with 30 and zero turnovers). But big shots by the Cyclones gave them a 34-28 lead at the half.

Texas’ defensive pressure continued to give Iowa State problems in the second half causing five turnovers early in the third quarter. Every time it looked like the Longhorn defense would turn the tide, the Cyclones answered with their own adjustments and key baskets. The Cyclones got stops when they forced Texas into perimeter jump shots, yet when the Longhorns could turn the corner to penetrate, they finished with easy buckets. Texas had the advantage in the post with another big day from center Lauren Ebo (14 points and 7 boards) and forward DeYona Gaston (13 points and 11 boards).

Center Lauren Ebo has had back-to-back impact games for Texas as they head to the Big 12 Championship game against Baylor on Sunday, March 13. (Photo credit: Scott D. Weaver/Big 12 Conference)

Forty minutes was just not enough for either team to put the game away. After a big block on Ebo, Iowa State center Beatriz Jordão tied the game at 63 off a great feed from sophomore point guard Emily Ryan to go to overtime. Ashley Joens had her consistent all-American day for the Cyclones with 33 points and 13 rebounds. Texas got the stops needed and hit free throws in OT to seal the 82-73 win.  

Iowa State now moves to 26-6 overall and most likely will stay on that projected #2 seed line for the NCAA Tournament. It will give their faithful fan base another chance to pack the real Hilton Coliseum next week. 

Texas advances to the Big 12 Championship game, where they matchup with the top-seeded Baylor Lady Bears. They played each other twice within three days in February, Baylor winning both. So grab some extra BBQ from Kansas City’s best and tune in for a fun game on championship Sunday!

Written by Missy Heidrick

I am a retired Kansas State shooting guard and spent almost 20 years working in Higher Education and Division 1 athletics. I am currently a basketball analyst for television and radio, contributing correspondent at The Next, Locked on Women's Basketball podcast host, WBB Naismith Award board of selectors member and run my own consulting business. I am a proud mother of two and wife to a patient husband who is almost as big of a sports junkie as I am!

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