WACO, Texas (AP) — Sherri Coale knows what it’s like to be down by a bunch and rally for a win. Her Oklahoma Sooners almost pulled off a miraculous comeback against Baylor before falling short.
“We were down at Cal by 26 and came back and won by 10 or something. That was crazy,” the Oklahoma coach said. “Then against West Virginia last year in the Big 12 tournament, we were down 22″ and scratched out a 65-64 win.
Oklahoma (17-12, 8-8 Big 12) trailed by 32 with 15:12 left in the game and twice pulled to within 6 before falling 96-89 to No. 6 Baylor on Monday night. The Sooners could have pulled even closer had Aaryn Ellenberg’s 3-point attempt with 29 seconds to play not bounced off the back of the rim and fallen into the hands of Baylor’s Nina Davis.
Ellenberg “had a really deep 3 there,” Coale said. “She had a good look at it. I followed that one all the way in. That was close. It was a good look.”
Ellenberg, who finished with 29 points, was playing her first game since suffering a concussion against Oklahoma State on Feb. 16. She was 9-of-24 from the field and made eight of her nine free throw attempts.
“Early in the game, you could tell she hadn’t done anything in seven days except sit in a dark corner of a room and try to get well,” Coale said. “But she played her way out of it and was fantastic.”
Odyssey Sims scored 38 points and Nina Davis added 28 points and 14 rebounds to lead Baylor (25-3, 15-1).
“People forget, Oklahoma was picked to win (the Big 12)” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “That team we played tonight is good. That team is good.”
Baylor took a 71-39 advantage on a layup by Makenzie Robertson with 15:12 to play before Oklahoma rallied scoring 17 of the next 21 points. Ellenberg scored seven during the streak and Williams had back-to-back layups, and the Sooners pulled to within 75-56 with 10:15 to play. The Sooners then got the lead down to 12, with Kornet hitting a 3 and Ellenberg following with two free throws and a steal and jumper. Baylor was up 78-66 with 7:33 to play.
Oklahoma made one final push to get it within six. Mulkey said that Oklahoma’s second half rally began when she pulled starting post player Sune Agbuke less than five minutes into the second half due to a sore Achilles.
“It totally changed the complexion of the game when I didn’t put her back in there because she is a wall back there,” Mulkey said. “She’s a defensive presence when those guards are penetrating, and we just didn’t get it done on that end of the floor with that position.”
Agbuke scored had 5 points and 5 rebounds in 17 minutes. Her replacements, Kristina Higgins and Khadijiah Cave, combined for 3 points and 4 rebounds in 25 minutes.
“I didn’t think Kristina and (Cave) especially handled that very well on the defensive end of the floor,” Mulkey said.
Sims helped Baylor build its big lead. She had 10 points during a game-opening 16-2 run. Baylor led by as many as 22 points in the first half, going up 31-9 on a layup by Davis with 7:45 to play. Oklahoma closed to 42-28 with 2:03 left in the half before Baylor led 53-31 at the break.
Baylor shot 55 percent from the floor (22-of-40) in the first half while holding Oklahoma to 31 percent (10-of-32), a performance that Mulkey said was about as efficient as any her team has played this season.
“And that second half is about as pathetic,” she added. “So, as good as it was the first half, it was just as bad the second half.”
The Lady Bears went up 60-35 when Sims hit a 3 from the corner on a five-on-three fast break. After an offensive rebound and putback by Oklahoma’s Nicole Kornet, Agbuke had a rebound and jumper in the lane for Baylor, and Sims stole the inbounds pass and hit a layup, giving Baylor a 64-35 lead with 17:01 to play.
The win helped Baylor clinch a 25-win season for the 11th consecutive year.
One of the biggest cheers of the game came when Baylor’s Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III made an appearance.
Baylor can clinch a Big 12 championship with a win over West Virginia on Sunday in Waco. It would be the Lady Bears’ 10th conference title under Mulkey.