WACO, Texas (AP)Kim Mulkey knows No. 7 Baylor needs to play these early-season non-conference games, even though practices for the Lady Bears are often much more competitive.
NaLyssa Smith matched a career high with 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting to lead six players scoring in double figures in a 136-43 win over Northwestern State on Friday, extending the Lady Bears’ national-best home winning streak to 60 games. They came up four points short of their school scoring record set four years ago.
”Sometimes practicing with each other, we get used to playing with each other,” Smith said. ”So playing other teams helps us find a feel for each other and build team chemistry. So I feel like playing games against other teams is just, it’s a good experience for us.”
Hannah Gusters, a 6-foot-5 freshman center, added 22 points on 11-of-14 shooting and Queen Egbo 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting for the Lady Bears (6-1), who shot 67.9% overall (57 of 84). DiJonia Carrington added 13 points while Jordyn Oliver and Sarah Andrews each had 12. Oliver also had 10 assists, while Caitlin Bickle had 11 rebounds.
All 11 Baylor players scored and had rebounds, including UCLA transfer Jaden Owens (three points, one rebound in 10 minutes) in the sophomore guard’s debut for the Lady Bears. Gusters was the only player who didn’t have one of their single-game record 45 assists.
The game was the makeup of one scheduled Nov. 27 before Northwestern State had to postpone because of COVID-19 issues. It gave the Lady Bears games on back-to-back days before an extended Christmas break, but Mulkey said it was important to squeeze it in even though that meant four home games in a six-day span.
”Ideally, you don’t want to do that, but we just need to play (games),” Mulkey said. ”Yes, practice, there’s a lot of teaching, and probably in practice there’s no question that when we go against each other it’s much more competitive, it gets heated. And yet at the same time, sometimes we just get tired of that and we just need to play games.”
Tristen Washington had 12 points on four 3s to lead Northwestern State (0-3). The Lady Demons made 11 3s but were only 4-of-19 shooting (21.1%) inside the arc, with their first made two-point basket not coming until more than 2 minutes into the second half.
Baylor scored the game’s first six points on three field goals in the opening minute, and already had a 23-point lead after the first quarter. The Lady Bears led 74-21 at halftime, and had 102 points after a 3-pointer by Carrington just before the end of the third quarter.
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Baylor players will be able to go home after Saturday’s game and won’t have to be back on campus until Dec. 28 for COVID testing and the resumption of practice before their Jan. 2 Big 12 game at TCU. The Lady Bears then host No. 3 UConn on Jan. 7.
Mulkey always wants her players to be able to go home for Christmas, but admits she will be praying a lot about them while they are away this year.
”As far as the Christmas break, that’s pretty much the same. The difference is the COVID testing and just holding your breath that, you know, we’re going to stay away from it,” she said. ”We’re so fortunate. I’m just telling you, and we all knock on wood every day, we haven’t had it. And that’s a good thing, but it’s also a scary thing because what does that probably mean? We are going to get it at some point.”
Northwestern State: The Lady Demons have six newcomers and a first-year coach in Anna Nimz. They were playing on their third game after having the start of their season delayed because of the COVID-19 issues. They canceled three games and rescheduled the game with Baylor.
Baylor: The Lady Bears came up just short of their previous records of 77 first-half points and total points set in a 140-32 win over Winthropon Dec. 15, 2016. They outscored Northwestern State 86-2 in the paint, had a 33-0 advantage in fastbreak points. The Lady Demons had 29 turnovers that led to 48 Baylor points, and the Lady Bears outrebounded them 56-15, including 24 offensive boards.
Northwestern State is home to play Mississippi Valley State on Sunday.
Baylor hosts McNeese State, its their third afternoon home game in a four-day span before a holiday break.
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