No. 7 Baylor win Collen debut 77-70, led by Smith and Egbo
WACO, Texas (AP) — Things looked different for seventh-ranked Baylor in its season opener, with a new coach and a lot of 3-point shots.
The opening result was the same, even if the 77-70 victory over Texas State on Tuesday night was not nearly as lopsided as past early-season games.
“You play with a different level of expectation when you put a Baylor uniform on, because you’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Bears coach Nicki Collen said. “Am I am I disappointed in certain things that we did? Yes. ... But I’ve told people, like, this isn’t going to happen overnight. We’re not going to be a well-oiled machine in the first game.”
Preseason AP All-America forward NaLyssa Smith scored 23 points and Queen Egbo had a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds) for the Bears, who played its first home game without Kim Mulkey as coach since February 23, 2000. Jordan Lewis had 14 points and seven assists.
Smith scored nine of her points in the fourth quarter, including a three-point play after being fouled on a made put-back basket. She followed with a steal that led to a breakaway layup with 1:52 left after the Bobcats got within 73-67 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Da’Nasia Hood.
Hood, a preseason All-Sun Belt Conference pick, led Texas State with 20 points, all coming after halftime. Jaeda Reed and Lauryn Thompson each had 10 points.
“When Hood got going, and made a couple of 3s late, it made it interesting,” Collen said. “We turned the basketball over too much in the second half. I thought we actually got down the floor better, but just didn’t make the best decisions.”
Mulkey, who won three national championships and 12 regular-season Big 12 titles in her 21 seasons, left in April and returned to her home state as LSU’s coach. Collen was preparing for her fourth season as head coach of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream when Baylor hired her.
The Bears, an NCAA Elite Eight team last season, led throughout after jumping out to a 22-7 lead after the first quarter. But it was still only a 15-point gap going into the fourth quarter against a team picked to finish fourth in the Sun Belt and that had been outscored 189-42 the last two times it played Baylor.
Collen said the Bears could have blown the game open had they made more 3s.
“We have to shoot it better than 4 for 25, because they were good looks, and all of a sudden it becomes a lot harder to help when we make those, and those are good shooters taking good shots,” she said.
Texas State: Hood had a tough start. She missed her first seven shots and was scoreless until making a 3-pointer midway through the third quarter. The team’s leading scorer (15.7 per game) and rebounder (6.5 per game) last season finished 8-of-21 shooting overall with four 3s.
Baylor: Along with the new coach, transfer guards Jordan Lewis (Alabama) and Ja’Mee Asberry (Oklahoma State), made their Baylor debuts. The two had a combined 125 3-pointers last season, 15 more than the Bears had as a team. Both had one 3 on Tuesday.
A LONG, LONG TIME AGO
It had been 260 months, 1,133 weeks and 7,930 days since Baylor played a home game that wasn’t with Mulkey, a 91-90 overtime victory over Colorado for the last of Baylor’s seven wins that season. The Bears finished the 1999-2000 season with two road losses before falling to Nebraska in the first round of the Big 12 tournament.
The Bobcats began their 11th season under coach Zenarae Antoine, who played at Colorado State for Tom Collen (Nicki Collen’s husband) and later worked for him as an assistant for nine seasons in a row at Louisville and Arkansas. Nicki Collen was on the same Louisville staff in 2003-04 before time off the court to start a family.
“At some point I kind of joked around with both of them, I was like y’all better watch out for my high-ball screen offense, which I got from him,” Antoine said. “In all seriousness, I have a lot of respect for Nicki and how hard she has worked as a coach. I have a lot of respect or coach Mulkey and what she’s built here. ... I was excited for my team’s opportunity to play a team in the top 10.”
Texas State: Hosts Huston Tillotson on Sunday.
Baylor: Travels about 100 miles to play Texas-Arlington on Thursday night.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25