Odyssey Sims

Junior forward Nneka Enemkpali finished with 19 points agianst No. 9 Baylor this weekend. But Enemkpali's offense paled against baylor guard Odyssey Sims' 44 points on the night.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Though junior forward Nneka Enemkpali grabbed 15 boards to complement 19 points, Texas (14-7, 5-4) couldn’t maintain its halftime lead against No. 9 Baylor (18-3, 8-1). The Longhorns fell 87-73 to their in-state rival.

“I’m very proud of our effort, but I don’t think we played very intelligently today,” head coach Karen Aston said. “Our guards will play and can play and have been playing a lot better than they played today, in particular [with] shot-taking and decision making.”

Texas outrebounded, outshot and outscored the Bears in a close first half that featured six lead changes and competitive play. A buzzer beater by freshman forward Nekia Jones gave Texas a 36-35 advantage to finish the first half. Texas’ pressure defense restricted senior guard Odyssey Sims to 6-for-18 from the field in the first half. The defense denied Sims’ teammates as well. The Bears connected on only nine field goals — their lowest first half total in conference play this season.

“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well in the first half,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “We knew, though, that we were still in the game, and that we had a chance to win it, [even with] shooting 28 percent in the first half.”

Texas allowed the Bears a boost of confidence as it plunged into foul trouble. The Longhorns committed 20 fouls in the game to help Baylor finish with 37 points from the charity stripe.

“We didn’t make adjustments to the way the game was being officiated,” Aston said. “Baylor did a better job of making adjustments in the second half and not putting us on the line.”

Texas ushered one Bear after the next to the free-throw line. The rampant fouls allowed Sims to compensate for 22 missed field goals, as she sunk 14 second-half free throws. She finished with 44 points, her fourth game with more than 40 this season. Sophomore guard Celina Rodrigo, who finished with 10 points and seven assists, said Sims posed a multifaceted challenge that Texas couldn’t handle.

“If you go over the screen, she’ll shoot a three, but if you go under the screen, help has to be there,” Rodrigo said. “Our defense struggled; our help wasn’t there, and we didn’t make the right rotations.”

Although Texas didn’t make the necessary team adjustments on defense, numerous players contributed to its offensive threat. Five Longhorns reached double figures. Enemkpali — who led all Longhorns in points and rebounds — echoed Aston’s concern that they “lost the possession game very clearly.”

“If we had responded the way we should have responded [in] the second half and found a way to … secure the offensive rebounds, that would’ve helped,” Enemkpali said. “Offensive rebounds really hurt us late in the game.”

Texas resumes conference play at 7 p.m. Wednesday night against Texas Tech at the Frank Erwin Center.

Junior forward Nneka Enemkpali has been the Longhorns' go-to player this season, averaginga team-high 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game. 

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Entering the round-robin series against Baylor last year, head coach Karen Aston knew hopes were lost. At 9-12, 2-8 Big 12, Aston’s squad held no chance against then-No. 1 Baylor (21-1, 11-0 Big 12) and Aston knew Baylor was “dominating on the defensive end.” The Bears soon swept Texas 75-48 and 67-47.

But Aston and Texas left their growing pains in the 2012-2013 season, entering this year with a plan to “own it,” play with heart and pursue their biggest conference threat: No. 9 Baylor.

“Nobody has beaten Baylor yet, so I think we’re still chasing them until someone beats them,” Aston said in an Oct. 16 season preview. “The league went through some hard times last year, and, obviously, Baylor was head and shoulders above everyone.”   

Much has changed since last season: Brittney Griner graduated, the Bears remember what a loss feels like, and Texas has remembered in recent games what it takes to win. The No. 7 Bears (13-3, 7-1 Big 12) still top the conference, but Texas no longer cushions the bottom.

Here are three keys for Texas to pull off an upset against Baylor:

 

1) Pass to Chassidy Fussell and Brady Sanders behind the arc.

Against Kansas on Tuesday night, the duo combined for seven 3-pointers on 80 and 75 percent shooting from behind the arc, respectively. Maximizing this hot streak with Nneka Enemkpali’s penetration will make the Longhorns much more difficult to defend.  

 

2) Send Nneka Enemkpali to crash the boards.

Enemkpali, a junior forward, is averaging 13.1 points and 9.2 rebounds. The Kansas game brought her sixth double-double of the season, and last week’s 15 points and 21 rebounds against No. 18 West Virginia earned her Big 12 Player of the Week this week. 

 

3) Control senior guard Odyssey Sims.

Without Griner, Sims controls the Bears’ offense. Sims is averaging 29.5 points and 4.6 rebounds through Big 12 play this season. When Sims is on, she pulls off overtime miracles such as the three-point play in the last four seconds of overtime against No. 8 Oklahoma State. But when she’s off — like she was in the 76-60 loss to Kansas — Baylor struggles as a whole. Restricting Sims to four of 19 in the second half after allowing her 20 points before halftime, Kansas pulled away. Coming off their first conference road game in the very gym that dealt the Bears their first conference loss should motivate the Longhorns.  

“[Sims] is the best point guard in the country,” Aston said after last year’s game. “It’s her ability to take over on both ends — she dominates on the defensive end.”

Texas has shown it’s capable of contending with conference foes and ranked opponents, such as Baylor. Now is the Longhorns’ chance to prove they’ve eliminated senseless errors and overcome their road struggles.