WACO, Texas —
Ever the self-proclaimed downer, West Virginia coach Mike Carey was quick to tell his No. 11 Mountaineers they still have one more game before being able to at least have a share of the Big 12 title.
Carey also realizes they have that chance only after taking down the three-time defending champ on the road.
Asya Bussie had 21 points before fouling out, Averee Fields stole an errant pass and drove for a go-ahead layup with 12 seconds left and West Virginia beat No. 6 Baylor 71-69 Sunday, handing the Lady Bears their first conference home loss in four years. The teams are tied atop the Big 12 standings with one game left in the regular season.
“This is a very big win for us. We just came in here really focused and stayed focused the whole game,” Bussie said. “We have goals, and one of our goals was to beat Baylor, and that’s what we did. ‘’
Odyssey Sims, the nation’s leading scorer, had 39 points in her final regular-season home game. But the senior guard also her first career 10-turnover game, including the pass that Fields got in the Baylor end of the court, before Sims then missed a last shot.
West Virginia (26-3, 15-2 Big 12) never even led until 5:20 was left. The lead changed six times after that, the final time on the play by Fields that gave the Mountaineers their ninth consecutive victory.
“I told the girls, I’m very proud of them. Win or lose, we played hard. I just felt like the first time we played them, we weren’t aggressive at all — offensively, defensively — kind of sitting back, kind of intimidated,” Carey said. “This game, win or lose, I thought we were aggressive. I just wanted everybody to know that we showed up today, and our girls did a good job of that. ‘’
West Virginia, in only its second Big 12 season, plays at home against Kansas on Tuesday night. That game starts about an hour before the Lady Bears (25-4, 15-2) play at Iowa State that night.
When Bussie fouled out with 47 seconds left, Sims made both free throws for a 69-68 lead.
But the Mountaineers then turned the ball over when Crystal Leary was called for a charge that was drawn by Sune Agbuke. That lead to the game-deciding play.
Sims had the ball and was making a move when she tried to make a pass. The ball went to Fields, who drove for a layup that made it 70-69.
“I was trying to keep the ball in my hands. I figure they would foul,” said Sims, who two months ago scored a career-high 48 points in a 16-point win at West Virginia. “I turned it over. I gave it up too quick.”
Baylor still had another chance, but Sims missed a jumper. Freshman Nina Davis grabbed her 16th rebound, but lost control of the ball out of bounds with 1.4 seconds left. Linda Stepney made a free throw after being fouled.
“I thought the setting was perfect to win a Big 12 championship,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “We put ourselves in a position to do it, and we just didn’t get it done there at the end.”
Christal Caldwell had 17 points for West Virginia, and Bria Holmes 12.
Davis had 12 points and her 10th double-double for the Lady Bears, who had won 11 in a row overall.
West Virginia’s first lead came when Caldwell made a 3-pointer from the left side near her bench to make it 61-58 with 5:20 left.
But Baylor quickly got even when Sims pushed the ball up court and made a long pass to Makenzie Robertson in the right corner near the Baylor bench for a 3-pointer, the senior starter’s only made basket in the game.
West Virginia shot 50 percent (27 of 54), only the second opponent to make half its shots against the Lady Bears since an NCAA tournament loss in 2006. The Mountaineers joined Stanford as the only teams to shoot 50 percent against Baylor in a span of 282 games.
“We’re disappointed, but I’m not disappointed to the extent that we lost a Big 12 championship,” Mulkey said. “We may now just have to share it.”
Sims banged her right shoulder hard with 1:44 left in the first half, and was on the court writhing in pain. She got up and went to the locker room, but was on the court at halftime for recognition of the Lady Bears’ three seniors and then scored their first nine points after halftime.
“It just popped,” she said.
WEST VIRGINIA (26-3)
Caldwell 7-14 0-0 17, Fields 3-6 2-3 8, Bussie 8-10 5-8 21, Stepney 2-8 1-2 5, Holmes 4-9 1-4 12, Palmer 2-6 0-0 5, Faulk 0-0 0-0 0, Harlee 0-0 0-2 0, Leary 1-1 1-3 3. Totals 27-54 10-22 71.
Sims 13-30 13-18 39, Johnson 2-7 0-0 4, Chandler 1-1 0-0 2, Robertson 1-2 2-2 5, Agbuke 0-2 2-2 2, Davis 2-6 8-8 12, Wright 1-2 3-4 5, Small 0-1 0-0 0, Higgins 0-0 0-0 0, Cave 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-51 28-34 69.
Halftime—Baylor 33-29. 3-Point Goals—West Virginia 7-17 (Holmes 3-4, Caldwell 3-5, Palmer 1-5, Stepney 0-3), Baylor 1-6 (Robertson 1-2, Sims 0-4). Fouled Out—Bussie, Holmes, Robertson. Rebounds—West Virginia 30 (Bussie, Leary 5), Baylor 37 (Davis 16). Assists—West Virginia 17 (Palmer, Stepney 4), Baylor 13 (Johnson 6). Total Fouls—West Virginia 29, Baylor 21. A—8,242.