Nina Norman scores 17 to lead Texas past No. 4 Baylor
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- With the losses mounting in a frustrating season, the Texas Longhorns desperately needed a win.
They got a big one Saturday over a key Big 12 rival.
Nina Norman scored 17 points, including eight in a key two-minute stretch late in the second half, to lead Texas (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) to a 69-55 win over Baylor (No. 5 ESPN/USA Today, No. 4 AP) on Saturday.
It was a huge win for the Longhorns (10-6, 3-2), who had lost four of their previous six games in a season that started with them ranked No. 2 and with expectations of reaching the Final Four. One of those losses came against Baylor two weeks earlier.
"You can go from feeling really bad to really good in the swing of just one game," Texas coach Jody Conradt said.
"We showed a lot of confidence and heart out there," senior guard Jamie Carey said. "It's been a tough week. It was great to see that again, to see fight, to see the passion."
Tiffany Jackson added 18 points and eight rebounds for Texas, which closed the game with a 15-2 run.
Sophia Young led Baylor (13-3, 3-2) with 13 points and 12 rebounds. The Lady Bears didn't score a field goal over the final 7:48.
"Texas had a sense of urgency and we didn't match it," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson said.
Texas led 54-53 when Norman simply took over the game over the final four minutes. She started the run with a pair of free throws and then slipped underneath on an inbounds pass to convert an easy layup with just four seconds left on the shot clock.
Then she grabbed a defensive rebound and went the length of the court for a layup that made it 60-55. Norman then forced two Baylor turnovers and the Longhorns steadily pulled away. Annissa Hastings scored the Longhorns' final five points, all of them from the free-throw line.
"This one helped our pride, a lot, and will get us going," Norman said.
Defensively, Texas clamped down on Baylor's tough frontcourt duo of Young and Steffanie Blackmon, harassing them near the basket and rarely giving them easy entry passes.
Those two had combined for 44 points and 21 rebounds when Baylor beat Texas but didn't come close to matching that again. Blackmon had just three points and four boards this time around.
"Once they catch the ball, it's pretty hard to stop them," said Longhorns forward Heather Schreiber, who was often posted up with Young near the basket. "We had to put pressure on their guards to keep them from lobbing the ball over us."
Baylor outrebounded Texas 43-31 but committed 25 turnovers, including five in a row during the Longhorns' final run.
The turnovers were critical early, when Baylor twice held nine-point leads in the first half but couldn't put away a Texas team that missed 15 of its first 17 shots.
"That's when we lost it, guys. It's hard enough to win on the road. You've got that big a lead and you can't extend it? That's hard for me to believe," Mulkey-Robertson said.
The Longhorns fought back from their horrid shooting start to briefly grab a 25-24 lead in the final minute of the first half on Norman's jumper.
Baylor quickly retook the lead when Young snared a tough pass to convert a layup. Baylor then stripped the ball from Kalee Carey and Chameka Scott hit a 3-pointer from deep in the left corner at the buzzer to make it 29-25 at the break.
Baylor couldn't capitalize on the momentum.
Jaime Carey's long 3-pointer put Texas up 35-33 and Jackson scored six straight points as the Longhorns built a seven-point lead. Jackson was just 3-of-13 against Baylor in the previous meeting but was dominant under the basket this time.
"Tiffany came out really strong today," Young said. "She was much more physical than I was."
Jamie Carey hit another 3-pointer and Jackson made two free throws that made it 53-47. Baylor managed to pull within one but missed its last 12 shots.
"When you can do a defensive job on their inside players like we did today, I think you say, 'Hats off to everybody on the floor,'" Conradt said.
COACH & PLAYER POSTGAME QUOTES
I heard people say over and over that Oklahoma had shut Baylor down inside by jamming up the paint. That's not true. Look at Baylor’s shooting percentage from 3-point range – they are one of the best teams in the country at making 3’s. In my opinion, you don't stop post players by just playing tough inside. You also need to get your hands on the ball on the perimeter and our guards did a great job with that today.
On what she has said to the team during this stretch of going 1-3 prior to today’s win ...
Today was our most complete game. We tried to simplify things as we’ve been struggling. I talked to the team and said this week, ‘it’s basketball, and it’s not a hard game’. I didn't want to say it was a must win - because then if you cannot win it, it's not very easy to come back from that. What we said was, OK, we have two conference losses, and are in the same situation as we were last year – losing at Baylor and at Texas Tech. We still have a chance to win this (conference). Will we go undefeated the rest of the conference? If so, we’ll have to play our head off because this is as tough a conference as you will find. What we are saying right now, is, let's be better than we are. Let's improve. That is what I will say in practice tomorrow and in practice on Monday. Last year, we didn't get better. We tried to hang on down the stretch, and it doesn't work. We want to try and get every win we can and see where we are when it is playoff time."
On the play of UT’s bench ...
On the play of junior guard Nina Norman (season-high 17 points, including 13 in the second half)...
Senior G Jamie Carey
We always talk about dividing the game up into four-minute segments. We always talk about four-minute games. The last four minutes today was critical. During a free throw at that time, Coach (Conradt) pulled me over and said to pay attention to every possession. We’ve talked about how we need to tighten up our game management. And, when we needed them today, we had a lot of steals, especially in the last four minutes, and they couldn’t get into their offensive routine."
Junior G Nina Norman (season-high 17 points)
Senior F Heather Schreiber
It was frustrating to have as good shots as we did to start the game and miss almost all of them. But, when we did, today everyone made an effort to get rebounds and would play harder on defense. Eventually, we knew we couldn't shoot that bad all game long, and eventually we started to make those shots."
Baylor Head Coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson
I don't know if Texas did anything differently today. Our perimeter play was pretty bad. Early on, we had a nine-point lead and then lots and lots of turnovers. I thought some people struggled for us. That's the nature of athletics. Regroup and head onto the next one.
Nina (Norman) goes where ever she wants. She got big shot after big shot. I don't think she gets enough credit.
I thought our decision-making from the perimeter when heavily guarded was not very good. It doesn't matter what kind of defense you see in the post. If you cannot make perimeter to post passes, you are in trouble. The decision-making with the ball in our hands was not good today.
We wasted an opportunity. Transition defense is where they got a lot of their points. It's a game of runs. We made critical mistakes in transition defense and we'd turn in over. This was a hard-fought game and they made the plays to win it."