Richards returns from injury, No. 4 Baylor beats USF 67-62

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — DiDi Richards had four points and seven assists in her return from a scary spinal cord injury five weeks ago, Queen Egbo scored a game-high 25 points and No. 4 Baylor beat South Florida 67-62 on Tuesday night.

The Lady Bears (2-0) became the 15th women’s program in Division I history to reach 1,000 wins. Baylor coach Kim Mulkey improved to 606-101 in her 21 seasons at the school.

South Florida (1-1) got 18 points from Maria Alvarez and Bethy Mununga added 13.

Richards entered three minutes into the game and quickly scored an in-close basket. The senior guard was hurt on Oct. 24 after colliding in mid-air with teammate Moon Ursin during a practice scrimmage and briefly lost feeling below her knees.

“It was an emotional day,” Richards said. “It’s kind of hitting me now, It was exciting to play a game again.”

All the Baylor players wore Richards t-shirts during pregame drills.

Richards was medically-cleared Monday night and ended up playing 30 minutes.

“I really had not planned to play her as much as I did,” Mulkey said. “When you watched DiDi play I just realized the kid is good, she’s back playing DiDi basketball. We needed her tonight. The lift is just the mere presence on the floor.”

Mununga got USF even at 53 early in the fourth with a trey but Richards then started an 8-0 Baylor run with a pair of free throws.

“Every time it was a one possession game or it was tied, they found a way,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said of Baylor.

Trinity Oliver scored four of her 14 points in consecutive possessions to put Baylor ahead 65-58 with 2 1/2 minutes left.

Despite shooting just 28.9 percent (11 for 38), Baylor led 29-28 at halftime.

BIG PICTURE

Baylor: Richards’ quick return was remarkable considering she required a walker to assist her in walking at first due to the spinal cord injury without radiographic abnormality. Still, in mid-November she was completing individual drills and workouts with the training staff.

South Florida: Considered a frontrunner to win the American Athletic Conference following the departure of UCONN to the Big East, the Bulls have another shot at high-ranked opponent when they host No. 6 Mississippi State on Saturday night.

ANOTHER CLOSE ONE

In the previous meeting between the teams last season, in Waco, Texas, No. 2 Baylor downed USF 58-46 on Nov. 19, 2019.

TIDBITS

Baylor won the rebounding battle 50-37, with Egbo grabbing 11 in her season debut.

“The game was decided in the post,” Fernandez said.

While USF made 10 of 27 3-pointers, Baylor missed all 11 tries.

UP NEXT

Baylor: Will travel to Arkansas on Sunday before opening up Big 12 play at West Virginia on Dec. 10.

South Florida: After playing Mississippi State on Saturday night, the Bulls’ next scheduled game is the conference opener at Memphis on Dec 16.

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More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/Womenscollegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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