The women’s basketball season so far has been anything but predictable, but on Monday night, two top teams delivered the kinds of performances expected from their No. 1 and No. 4 rankings. No. 1 Baylor dominated No. 18 Texas 64-35 while Notre Dame cruised to a comfortable 98-68 win over No. 17 Syracuse. Both teams hope to earn top spots in the next Top 16 reveal.
Here’s how each team picked up the big win:
No. 4 Notre Dame overwhelms No. 17 Syracuse
No. 17 Syracuse welcomed Notre Dame to its home arena with the goal of stopping the Irish the same way unranked North Carolina and unranked Miami had over the course of the last month. The Orange had just six losses on the season prior to game with all but one of them coming against ranked teams, and they were looking for big win — and a rankings boost — after their game against the Irish. Notre Dame, however, had other plans. Anchored behind a balanced offense and double-digit points from all five starters, the Irish executed an aggressive performance against the Orange, earning a 98-68 win in their last ranked matchup of the regular season.
Arike Ogunbowale led the Irish with 24 points, followed closely by Brianna Turner, who notched 22 of her own. Teammate Jessica Shepard hit a double-double with her 17 points and 13 rebounds, as did Jackie Young, who put up 10 points and 12 assists. Marina Mabrey also pitched in 17 points to round out the double-digit scorers for Notre Dame. As a team, the Irish shot 56.7 percent from the field and 43.8 from beyond the arc, but delivered at a much higher rate from the free throw line, sinking 15 of 18 shots. Syracuse managed just 38.9 percent on field goals.
Syracuse pushed the Irish in the first quarter, keeping them to just a 5-point lead, but Notre Dame took over in the second 10 minutes. Muffet McGraw’s team outscored Syracuse 22-8 in the second quarter and increased the scoring pace in the next half, putting up 52 points in the last two quarters to Syracuse 41. The win moved Notre Dame to 26-3 on the year and avoided another lower-ranked loss while Syracuse dropped to 20-7. The Irish next play Virginia on Sunday.
No. 1 Baylor storms past No. 18 Texas
Baylor’s road to the top-ranked spot in the country hasn’t been easy, and the Bears have nearly battled through numerous near-heartbreaks, squeezing past Arizona State earlier in the season and then earning hard-fought wins against unranked South Dakota State, Stanford and Oklahoma State. Texas nearly stopped the Bears earlier this month as well, but on Monday, the Bears raced past the Longhorns and never looked back. Baylor cruised to a 27-16 halftime lead before ultimately earning the dominating 29-point win over their ranked opponent 64-35. The Baylor defense refused to allow any Texas player to score double digits, while the Bears had four players accomplish such a feat.
Turnovers defined the game for Texas, as the Longhorns gave up the ball 18 times, resulting in 23 points for Baylor. The Bears also produced double-digit turnovers with 13, but their solid defense prevented Texas from scoring any more than eight points after Baylor lost the ball.
Senior Kalani Brown led the way for Baylor offensively with 19 points and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes to help her team stay undefeated in the Big 12, while Lauren Cox, Chloe Johnson and Juicy Landrum recorded 13, 12 and 11 points.
With 6:44 to play in the fourth quarter, the Bears led by 31 points, their largest margin of the game, and while they didn’t manage to hold quite that lead through the final seconds, the 29-point win will help the Bears keep their confidence, momentum and their No. 1 ranking.