OKLAHOMA CITY -- Baylor superstar Odyssey Sims has been in a bit of a slump while dealing with special defenses designed to slow her down.
Fortunately, Baylor's emerging star has picked up the slack. Freshman forward Nina Davis had 18 points and 12 rebounds to help the No. 9 Lady Bears defeat No. 18 Oklahoma State 65-61 in the Big 12 women's semifinals Sunday.
Over the past five games, Davis, the Big 12 Freshman of the Year, has averaged 20.8 points and 11 rebounds while Sims has struggled to find her shooting touch. Baylor coach Kim Mulkey built Davis' confidence on Sunday, knowing she might need production from someone other than Sims.
"When I first subbed out, coach came up to me and told me to keep shooting the ball, shooting the ball with confidence," Davis said. "I just took her words to heart and I just kept shooting until it fell in, and once it went in, they were big shots, so I was satisfied."
Sims entered the game averaging 29.1 points per contest. Mulkey is starting to expect big numbers from Davis, too.
"She's one of those players that, when the game is over, you don't realize she had another double-double," Mulkey said. "She just does her job in there."
Sims, the Big 12 Player of the Year, shot just 6 of 22 but made a critical shot with 1:42 remaining to play that put the Lady Bears ahead by six. The Cowgirls defended her with a triangle-and-two defense, allowing Davis and Makenzie Robertson to exploit its openings. Robertson scored 13 points and made 3 of 6 3-pointers.
It was Mulkey's 400th career win. The Lady Bears (28-4) advanced to Monday's final and can win their fourth consecutive conference title.
Brittney Martin had 11 points and 15 rebounds for Oklahoma State (23-8), but she made 4 of 16 shots. Tiffany Bias, OSU's leading scorer, finished with nine points on 3-for-11 shooting and played with foul trouble for most of the game.
Baylor outrebounded Oklahoma State 47-39 and held the Cowgirls to 36 percent shooting. Still, the Cowgirls had their chances.
"I'm really proud of our team," Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said. "I thought they competed very hard. Also disappointed because I felt like we had a chance to win the basketball game."
Baylor expected a tough matchup. The Lady Bears won both regular-season meetings, but Oklahoma State took it to overtime in Stillwater. OSU has never won a Big 12 tournament title and was trying to reach the final for just the second time.
Baylor opened the game on an 8-2 run, highlighted by a 3-pointer by Robertson. The Lady Bears remained in control throughout the first half and led 31-22 at the break after holding Oklahoma State to 27 percent shooting. Oklahoma State made just five of its 10 free throws in the first half and committed nine turnovers.
Bias went 1-for-6 from the field in the first half and sat out the last 4:57 after she committed her second foul. She picked up her third foul just 65 seconds into the second half.
After Sims made a jumper, OSU's Liz Donohoe scored her first points of the game on a 3-pointer, and Bias made a baseline jumper to cut Baylor's lead to 35-31.
Baylor withstood the charge, and Davis' 3-point play pushed the Lady Bears' lead back out to eight.
Bias committed her fourth foul with 8:36 to play, but she stayed in the game.
"Basically coach just told me to be smart, and as a player with four fouls you know you can't be as aggressive as you want to be," Bias said. "You have to be mentally tough and be sound on defense."
The Cowgirls cut Baylor's lead to 52-50 at one point, but got no closer. Mulkey said it was a typical Big 12 game, and she hopes the NCAA selection committee considers the league's balance when making decisions about seedings and selections.
"What you hope happens is the selection committee understands, `Wow, let's look at this league they're in and how tough it is,' and give us a lot of good seeds."