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Recap: Darianna Littlepage-Buggs maintains Baylor’s pride and allows Bears to set sights higher

Darianna Littlepage-Buggs of the Baylor Bears went for a double-double that prevented the No. 12 Texas Longhorns from clinching a share of the Big 12 regular-season title. The Bears have a long tradition of having a say in who wears that crown.

Darianna Littlepage-Buggs
Photo courtesy of Baylor University (@Baylor) via Twitter

The Baylor Bears played with a whole lot of spirit Monday night at Moody Center in Austin and were rewarded with a 63-54 win over the No. 12 Texas Longhorns that will be huge for their status in Bracketology.

Big 12 Freshman of the Year candidate Darianna Littlepage-Buggs led the Bears, who were a No. 9 seed on Friday according to ESPN, with 19 points and 13 rebounds. She scored 11 in the first quarter to set the tone and help Baylor (19-10, 10-7 Big 12) to a 20-18 lead after one. The second quarter was incredibly back-and-forth until the Bears pulled away a bit with a seven-point lead late in the frame. Texas (22-8, 13-4 Big 12) kept it close until a Sarah Andrews contested layup at 6:42 remaining in the contest, after which Baylor lead by at least seven.

Andrews finished with 17 points, seven boards and two steals.

The Bears overcame early-season losses to good teams in No. 5 Maryland, No. 17 Michigan and No. 21 Arizona by defeating No. 16 Oklahoma and then-No. 21 Kansas in back-to-back games in early January. They are 7-7 since then, with the seven conference losses being equal to their number of conference losses over the previous seven years. However, amid the struggles, they picked up a big win over No. 23 Iowa State and now this win over Texas, which prevented the Longhorns from clinching a share of the Big 12 regular-season title. Baylor has of course won the last 12 of those and kept its pride intact by not allowing Texas to celebrate that accomplishment after a game against it.

The Bears showed the reasons why they will be a dangerous team in March on Monday. Littlepage-Buggs was a problem inside and also hit from mid-range, Andrews showed off her handles and all-around scoring ability, Ja’Mee Asberry hit a couple clutch threes and assist machine Jaden Owens finished with seven helpers, one above her season average.

Asberry (10 points, three assists, two steals) shushed Moody after a mid-range make that was the final basket of the third. Baylor led by at least five the rest of the way.

After some nice dribbling moves, Andrews got in close to the basket and made a bank-floater that made it 52-45 one minute and 14 seconds into the fourth. One of Texas’ top scorers, DeYona Gaston, who had returned from an apparent lower back injury suffered in the third, answered with a floater of her own that cut it to 52-47. The teams then exchanged baskets again with Littlepage-Buggs scoring off an offensive rebound-turned-layup and Texas’ Rori Harmon hitting a turnaround mid-range shot. Then came the contested Andrews layup that swung momentum for good.

After that Andrews bucket, teammate Kyla Abraham turned an offensive rebound into a layup that made it 58-49 at 5:03 remaining. On the ensuing Texas possession, Littlepage-Buggs played suffocating defense on Gaston, forcing a shot clock violation. Baylor got the ball back and Andrews made a step-back trey at the buzzer of the shot clock to make it 61-49 with 3:34 to play.

A Littlepage-Buggs layup at 1:51 remaining also gave the Bears a 12-point lead. Shaylee Gonzales cut it to 63-54 with her second three of the game at 57 ticks left, but the Longhorns were unable to force a turnover after that and chose not to foul. Gonzales’ first three opened the contest’s scoring.

Harmon finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while her teammate Taylor Jones had 15 points, 13 boards and three blocks. Gonzales added 10 points in defeat.

Asberry’s first three hit off the back rim and fell in to make it 37-30 Bears at the 1:05 mark of the second quarter. Her second made it 46-39 at the 4:45 mark of the third.

Texas was a No. 4 seed in ESPN’s Friday Bracketology.