No. 4 Baylor tops No. 23 Arizona State 65-59 on the Rez
FORT DEFIANCE, Ariz. (AP) — Nalyssa Smith had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 4 Baylor overpowered No. 23 Arizona State inside for a 65-59 victory Sunday night in a game played on the Navajo Nation.
Baylor (3-0) got the Showdown at the Rez off to an ugly start, repeatedly turning the ball over while falling into an 11-point first-half hole.
The Bears fought their way back in the third quarter and used a 12-0 run to build a 55-47 lead midway through the fourth.
Arizona State (1-1) slowed Baylor’s post players through most of the half, but had a hard time containing them in the second. Lauren Cox had 14 points and nine rebounds for Baylor, which had a 46-8 advantage in the paint and 21 more rebounds.
The Sun Devils went cold from the floor in the fourth quarter as well in front of a rowdy, mostly pro-Sun Devils crowd. Kianna Ibis and Courtney Ekmark led Arizona State with 13 points each.
The Sun Devils have celebrated Native American culture at a game every season and this year decided to bring the game to the Navajo Nation.
Anticipation built quickly for the game among the Native American communities of northern Arizona and the Bee Holdzil Fighting Scouts Events Center had a buzz long before tipoff between the two power programs.
Arizona State arrived after having it easy in its opener, rolling over Incarnate Word 81-43 behind Jamie Ruden’s 15 points.
Baylor had it even easier its first two games, beating Nicholls State and Saint Francis (Pa.) by a combined 119 points. The Bears had seven players in double figures against Saint Francis, matching a school record.
Baylor couldn’t crack double figures as a team in the first quarter against Arizona State. The Bears had trouble against Arizona State’s pressure, but also were sloppy with the ball, turning it over eight times while getting off nine shot attempts.
The Sun Devils also started slow, missing their first five shots, before hitting a few down the stretch to lead 19-8.
Baylor took better care of the ball in the second quarter and hit a few more shots to pull within six, but a late Arizona State burst put the Sun Devils up 35-24 at halftime.
The Bears started getting the ball inside more and made more shots in there to start the third quarter, going on a 12-2 run to pull within 38-36. Baylor tied it at 43-all, but went scoreless over the final 2:58 to trail by four.
Baylor made up for its shaky start with a dominating second half to make it a memorable trip to the Rez.
Arizona State is bigger this season, but had a time against Baylor’s size — just like nearly every team in the country will.
Baylor hosts Southern on Thursday night.
Arizona State plays at Arkansas next Sunday.
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