WACO (AP) – The setting was perfect for Odyssey Sims and No. 6 Baylor to win another Big 12 title.
So much for perfect endings.
Sims, the nation’s leading scorer, had 39 points in her last regular-season home game. But the senior guard also had her first career 10-turnover game, the last miscue leading to Averee Fields’ go-ahead layup with 12 seconds left as No. 11 West Virginia won 71-69 Sunday for a share of the Big 12 lead with one game left in the regular season.
“She’s going to blame herself. She’s just a competitor, and she doesn’t need to do that. She doesn’t need to beat herself up over it,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “If I did it over again, the ball would be in her hands.”
Baylor (25-4, 15-2 Big 12) can still clinch at least a share of its fourth consecutive conference title with a win at Iowa State on Tuesday night. That game starts about an hour after tipoff of West Virginia (26-3, 15-2) playing at home against Kansas.
“We’re disappointed, but I’m not disappointed to the extent that we lost a Big 12 championship,” Mulkey said. “We may now just have to share it.”
When Asya Bussie fouled out with 47 seconds left, Sims made both free throws for a 69-68 lead.
But the Mountaineers then turned the ball over when Crystal Leary was called for a charge that was drawn by Sune Agbuke. That led to the game-deciding play.
Sims had the ball and was making a move when she appeared to make a late pass while in the air. The ball went to Fields, who drove for a layup that made it 70-69.
“I was trying to keep the ball in my hands. I figure they would foul,” said Sims, who two months ago scored a career-high 48 points in a 16-point win at West Virginia. “I turned it over. I gave it up too quick.”
The Mountaineers are in only their second Big 12 season.
“I told the girls, I’m very proud of them. Win or lose, we played hard. I just felt like the first time we played them, we weren’t aggressive at all — offensively, defensively — kind of sitting back, kind of intimidated,” coach Mike Carey said. “This game, win or lose, I thought we were aggressive. I just wanted everybody to know that we showed up today, and our girls did a good job of that. ”
Bussie had 21 points before fouling out, but was quickly back on the court after the buzzer to celebrate with her teammates in a stunned arena.
“This is a very big win for us. We just came in here really focused and stayed focused the whole game,” Bussie said. “We have goals, and one of our goals was to beat Baylor, and that’s what we did. ”
West Virginia never even led until 5:20 was left. The lead changed six times after that, the final time on the play by Fields that gave the Mountaineers their ninth consecutive victory.
Baylor still had another chance, but Sims missed a jumper. Freshman Nina Davis grabbed her 16th rebound, but lost control of the ball out of bounds with 1.4 seconds left. Linda Stepney made a free throw after being fouled.
Christal Caldwell had 17 points for West Virginia, and Bria Holmes 12.
Davis had 12 points and her 10th double-double for the Lady Bears, who had won 11 in a row overall.
West Virginia’s first lead came when Caldwell made a 3-pointer from the left side near her bench to make it 61-58 with 5:20 left.
But Baylor quickly got even when Sims pushed the ball up court and made a long pass to Makenzie Robertson in the right corner near the Baylor bench for a 3-pointer, the other senior starter’s only made basket in the game.
West Virginia shot 50 percent (27 of 54), only the second opponent to make half its shots against the Lady Bears since an NCAA tournament loss in 2006. The Mountaineers joined Stanford as the only teams to shoot 50 percent against Baylor in a span of 282 games.
Sims banged her right shoulder hard with 1:44 left in the first half, and was on the court writhing in pain. She got up and went to the locker room, but was on the court at halftime for recognition of the Lady Bears’ three seniors and then scored their first nine points after halftime.
“It just popped,” she said.
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