ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands (AP)DiDi Richards scored 20 points and No. 2 Baylor weathered a challenge from No. 17 Indiana for a 77-62 victory Friday night at the Paradise Jam tournament.
Queen Egbo had a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds, Te’a Cooper had 17 points along with nine assists, and Juicy Landrum added 10 for the Lady Bears (7-0) in their closest win of the season.
”We grew up,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. ”Again, our defense was special. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, but our defense has to carry us until we can get everybody on the floor and become more poised offensively.”
Grace Berger scored 18 points, Ali Patberg had 16 points and Mackenzie Holmes 11 for the Hoosiers (5-1), who led early against the defending NCAA champions.
Indiana – coming off its 14-point win over No. 5 South Carolina less than 24 hours earlier – went up 9-4 on Patberg’s jumper with 6 minutes, 49 seconds left in the first quarter.
However, Baylor recovered, closing out the first quarter with a 15-7 run. Smith’s jumper with 1:40 left put the Lady Bears ahead, and they led 19-16 at the end of the period.
Baylor would begin to pull away in the second quarter, and took its biggest lead of the first half – 11 points – when Richards’ jumper put the Lady Bears ahead 36-25. They would go on to lead 37-29 at the halftime break.
Indiana would fight back, opening the third quarter with a 7-1 run, with Aleksa Gulbe’s jumper pulling the Hoosiers within 38-36 with 7:16 left. But Richards’ three-point play 44 seconds later kicked off a 16-10 Baylor run that put the Lady Bears up 54-46 at the end of the period.
”We just didn’t panic,” Mulkey said. ”We had two kids on the floor who were starters on that national championship (Richards and Landrum), and they didn’t let the team lose its composure. We didn’t look at the score, they just played.”
Indiana made one final run in the fourth quarter, pulling within 65-61 on Holmes’ layup with 4:24 remaining, But Egbo made a tip-in, Caitlin Bickle hit a jumper and Cooper made three free throws during a 7-0 run that put the Lady Bears back up 72-61 with 55 seconds left.
”We just didn’t shoot it particularly well. It seems like we had a lot of great, open shots, too, but we couldn’t get them to fall,” Hoosiers coach Teri Moren said. ”Because we struggled a little bit offensively, that affected us defensively. Our kids battled, and had opportunities. But we missed layups, we missed free throws.”
Baylor: The Lady Bears’ winning streak over Top 25 teams now stands at 10 consecutive games, dating to the 2018-2019 season. Their last Top 25 loss came Dec. 15, 2018, against then-No. 11 Stanford.
Indiana: The Hoosiers have spent a school-record five weeks in the Top 25, and there’s no reason they can’t remain there when the new poll comes out next week.
After making 50% of its shots and going 7 of 15 on 3-pointers and 12 of 19 on free throws in its win over the Gamecocks, Indiana struggled somewhat against Baylor’s defense. While the Hoosiers shot 41%, they only made 5 of 17 3-pointers and 7 of 13 free throws.
Baylor was able to hold off Indiana despite having several key players in foul trouble for parts of Friday’s game. Cooper, Egbo and NaLysaa Smith all spent time on the bench after picking up two fouls each in the first half, and Richards spent a minute there after getting her third foul in the second half.
Baylor closes out this year’s Paradise Jam against No. 5 South Carolina on Saturday
Indiana takes on Washington State in its tournament finale Saturday.
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