INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – (Box Score) No lead seems insurmountable at the 2015 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City, as the second-seeded Bison of Oklahoma Baptist climbed out of a 19-point hole to beat No. 3 Our Lady of the Lake (Texas), 77-75, and punch a ticket into the quarterfinals.
Oklahoma Baptist, which awaits the winner of No. 1 Westminster (Utah) and No. 4 Westmont (Calif.) in the round of eight, improves to 6-3 all-time in the second round. The Bison’s most recent round of 16 win came in 2009 against Lee (Tenn.), 70-54.
Similar to its first round win against Martin Methodist, Our Lady of the Lake’s high-pressure defense forced rushed shots and turnovers throughout the first half for Oklahoma Baptist. The frustration hit its peak between 7:36 – 4:05, as the Saints rattled off 14 unanswered points en route to a 39-22 lead. Oklahoma Baptist cut the gap to 12 late in the half, before a Sonji Green layup made it a 14-point spread at the break, 43-29.
The Bison shot 28.6 percent (8-for-26) from the field – 13.7 percentage points below their season average entering the event – and surrendered the ball 13 times.
The Saints took full advantage of the miscues, outscoring Oklahoma Baptist, 16-3, in points off turnovers.
Senior guard Victoria Turner was the talk of the first half for Our Lady of the Lake. Despite only playing 6:30, the West Sacramento, Calif., native ended the frame one-point shy of her season-high with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting and a 4-for-4 effort at the charity stripe.
Our Lady of the Lake pushed its lead to a game-high 19 points (50-31) just three minutes into the second half on a 3-pointer by Courtney Bayliss – one of five on the afternoon.
However, the Bison refused to stay dormant, outscoring the Saints 21-7 over the course of the next nine minutes to cut the deficit to 57-52.
Following a 6-0 run by Our Lady of the Lake, Oklahoma Baptist began to chip away again and eventually found themselves within three points, 75-72, following a McKenzie Cooper 3-pointer. Free throws and a costly turnover by the Saints proved the difference in the final minute, as Oklahoma Baptist converted 5-of-5 attempts, while Our Lady of the Lake was held off the scoreboard.
Cooper posted her second-straight 20-point performance at the national championship with 20 points on 7-for-22 shooting, including three 3-pointers. Charity Fowler and Marida Lewis joined the Asher, Okla., native in double-digits with 18 points and 12 points, respectively.
As a team, Oklahoma Baptist shot 36.9 percent (24-for-65) from the floor and 73.3 percent (22-of-30) at the free throw line. The one negative on the score sheet for the Bison was turnovers. Oklahoma Baptist had a season-high 25 miscues.
Our Lady of the Lake was led once again by two-time Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) first teamer Courtney Bayliss. The senior scored a game-high 21 points despite being in foul trouble for the later part of the second half.
With the loss, the Saints are now 0-2 all-time in the championship second round. The RRAC regular season champions close the year with a 27-5 record.