Baylor routs Wahine in NCAA Tournament

Baylor guard Jordan Lewis (3) looks for an opening against Hawaii guards Kelsie Imai (1) and Daejah Phillips (15) during the first half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Waco, Texas, Friday, March 18, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

WACO, Texas – A first-half barrage by Hawaii forward Amy Atwell kept the University of Hawaii women’s basketball team within striking distance through the first 20 minutes of today’s NCAA Tournament game against second-seeded Baylor.

The host Bears asserted their dominance with a 34-point third quarter led by All-American NaLyssa Smith, and Baylor advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with an 89-49 rout of the Rainbow Wahine at the Ferrell Center.


Baylor (28-6) will face 10th-seeded South Dakota, which upset Mississippi in today’s first game, on Sunday.

Atwell hit four 3-pointers and scored 20 points in the first half and the Wahine trailed 38-29 at halftime.

Smith, who had four points at the break, went 7-for-8 from the field in a 17-point third quarter and the Bears outscored the Wahine 34-8 in the period to turn the game into a blowout.

“I thought we played well in the first half. I thought we played pretty equal with some silly turnovers and some missed shots,” UH coach Laura Beeman said. “I think we really saw what kind of team Baylor can be in the third period. They kind of took it to us and we could not hit a shot, other than Amy.

“Proud of this team, the way they represented our state and our university. I could not have asked for a better representation and effort and wonderful attitude. I’m a very, very, very proud head coach today of this group and what they’ve done.”

Atwell, the Big West Player of the Year, closed her six-year Rainbow Wahine career by leading UH with 29 points with six 3-pointers and 13 rebounds.

“Definitely means a lot, and it’s something I’m definitely going to remember,” Atwell said. “Obviously the outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but this season has kind of been a fairy tale in itself. It’s been everything that I could have asked for.”

Forward Kallin Spiller added 10 points and seven rebounds. But the Wahine shot 22% as a team in the program’s seventh NCAA Tournament appearance and first since 2016.

Baylor guard Jordan Lewis led the Bears with 23 points on 7-for-8 shooting and Smith finished with 21 and 14 rebounds.

Atwell drained her first two 3-pointers of the game to give UH a 6-2 lead. She was called for a charge to pick up her second foul with 1:54 left in the first quarter and went to the bench.

UH forward Nnenna Orji scored inside while drawing a foul and her free throw cut Baylor’s lead to 14-12 with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.

Baylor went on an 8-0 run bridging the quarter break and led 22-12 when the Bears converted a steal into a Queen Egbo layup.

Atwell re-entered the game early in the quarter and halted the Baylor run with her third 3-pointer and was fouled on another attempt and drained all three free throws. Spiller connected from long range, the Wahine trailed 26-21 with 5:51 left in the half.

Baylor quickly responded with another eight-point surge including two baskets in the paint from Egbo.

Orji scored inside and Atwell hit another set of three free throws to give her 20 points for the half and cut Baylor’s lead to 39-29 going into halftime.

Smith was held to four points in the first half, but opened the third quarter with a putback and a 3-pointer to spark an 17-3 run. After Lewis scored on a drive, Smith’s putback off a missed free throw stretched Baylor’s lead to 53-32 and the Bears continued to pull away and led 72-37 going into the fourth quarter.

The Bears put a guard on Atwell and limited her looks at the basket to hold her to two points with four shot attempts in the third quarter.

“The message (at halftime) was that we gave up 20 points to one player and we didn’t want to be the team that gave up an NCAA record,” Lewis said. “We had to guard and lock in on defense and get closer to her and make her put it on the floor because she’s a great shooter and has a quick release.”

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