Harmon leads No. 7 Texas past No. 4 Baylor for Big 12 crown
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Rori Harmon scored 20 points and No. 7 Texas beat No. 4 Baylor 67-58 on Sunday to win the Big 12 Tournament championship.
Harmon, a freshman, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after failing to be selected first-team all-conference, which Texas coach Vic Schaefer considered a snub.
“I was just playing for my teammates,” Harmon said. “It’s really not about awards. I just wanted to win.”
Her coach was a little more emotional about the victory.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my team,” Schaefer said. “I think you saw some really determined kids. They’re not intimidated. Going into competition there are so many things you have to do. Being tough isn’t just about being stronger or more physical.
“Coming off three games in three days, overtime yesterday, that game was won back in August on the track.
“These kids would not be denied.”
The game was projected to be a tussle between the front courts, but foul trouble on both sides put a crimp in that plan. Instead, the guards took over.
Texas (26-6) also got 14 points from Joanne Allen-Taylor and 12 from Aaliyah Moore.
“We’ve been playing incredibly well for the last three months, but we didn’t play well today,” Baylor coach Nicki Collen said. “I credit a lot of that to Texas. Texas’ ball pressure frazzled us all night long. We just didn’t get many clean attacks.”
Baylor (27-6), which swept the regular-season series by an average of 10 points, was led by Big 12 Player of the Year NaLyssa Smith with 21 points, but she only had seven before the fourth quarter and was still below her season average of 22.3.
Jordan Lewis and Ja’Mee Asberry had 13 points each for Baylor.
Texas coasted through the third quarter, keeping the lead at or near double digits. Baylor got a spark at the end of the third quarter when Asberry hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Baylor cut the deficit to seven points in the fourth but could get no closer.
Texas was hampered early when forward Deyona Gaston picked up her second foul with 5:46 left in the first quarter trying to guard Smith. The two bigs battled on both ends of the floor in the opening minutes, with Smith grabbing the upper hand.
“They play aggressive every single time,” Smith said. “I was trying to be as aggressive as they were.”
Smith was not a huge factor in the first quarter statistically, scoring five points and grabbing two rebounds. But she drew three fouls on Longhorns players.
The tide changed early in the second quarter when Smith picked up her second foul at the 8:12 mark with the Longhorns up 18-14. She came back in with 5:21 left in the quarter but picked up her third foul a little more than a minute later on the offensive end.
“We’ve got some really special players down (low),” Schaefer said. “My bigs have continued to develop this season. We were not like this two months ago. You don’t stop in January or February and say, ‘This is what we’ve got.’ You keep working. That’s what these kids have done.”
With Baylor’s best player on the bench, Texas built a 39-28 halftime lead. Harmon, who hit a layup at the buzzer, led Texas with 12 points in the half.
Texas: The Longhorns have the size and strength on the inside to throw plenty of fouls at opposing front-line players.
Baylor: Smith can be thrown off her game with a physical style of play.
BEST OF THE BEST
Joining Harmon and Smith on the all-tournament team were Texas’ Lauren Ebo, Iowa State’s Ashley Joens and Oklahoma’s Madi Williams. The 6-foot-4 Ebo had four points and four fouls in 23 minutes on Sunday, but scored 14 points a day earlier against No. 10 Iowa State and had 17 points and 10 rebounds against Kansas State in the quarterfinals.
Both teams await seeding, opponent and location for their NCAA Tournament games, which were to be announced later Sunday.
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