WACO, Texas (AP) — Jordan Lewis knew Baylor’s halftime lead was a little modest, and that Hawaii guard Amy Atwell was the reason.
So she wasn’t surprised to hear what coach Nicki Collen had to say at the break.
“The message was we gave up 20 points to one player,” Lewis said. “And we didn’t want to be the team that gave up an NCAA record.”
Cue the third quarter, when Lewis and NaLyssa Smith combined to score the first 27 Baylor points as the Bears pulled away for their 19th consecutive first-round win in the women’s NCAA Tournament, overwhelming Hawaii 89-49 on Friday.
Smith had 17 points and nine rebounds in the third, Lewis scored 12 and the Bears outscored the Rainbow Wahine 34-8 after leading by nine at halftime.
Queen Egbo had 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Bears (28-6), who were coming off a loss to Texas in the Big 12 tournament championship game after winning their 12th consecutive regular-season title.
Baylor, the No. 2 seed in the Wichita Region, will face South Dakota in the second round on Sunday. The 10th-seeded Coyotes beat Mississippi in the opener.
“Everyone was getting back on their feet from not playing a few days,” Lewis said. “Coming out of the half, we wanted to separate ourselves and not keep the game close. Getting out and running in transition is where we do our best.”
Atwell was limited to nine points on 3-of-12 shooting after halftime as 15th-seeded Hawaii (20-10) faded and shot 22% from the field overall while falling to 1-7 in the NCAA Tournament. An eight-game winning streak for the Big West tournament champions ended.
Atwell attempted just four shots in the third quarter, making a 3-pointer, while Smith and Lewis combined to go 10 of 12.
“We had a lot of slippage in that third quarter, and that’s always going to happen against a great Baylor team,” Atwell said. “They outplayed us for sure in the third quarter, but I think we can (hold) our heads high on the way we played for four quarters and everything we’ve done to get here.”
Sarah Andrews scored the first 11 Baylor points of the fourth quarter and finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Smith’s school-record 25th double-double of the season was wrapped up in the third quarter, when the 6-foot-4 senior had a 3-pointer among 17 points to go with nine rebounds. Lewis had 12 points in the quarter.
Three of Lewis’ five assists came in the third, all on Smith buckets, including an alley-oop pass for a layup not long after Smith, who was 9 of 13 from the field, pulled up from the left wing beyond the arc for just her ninth 3 of the season.
Atwell had 20 of Hawaii’s 29 points in the first half, when Hawaii was within two points late in the first quarter before Baylor’s 8-0 run into the early part of the second for a 22-14 lead.
“I think part of the reason we got off to a little bit of a slow start, (Smith) was a little under the weather,” said Collen, the first-year coach who won her tournament debut after replacing three-time champion coach Kim Mulkey. “Didn’t have a ton of energy, then somehow rallied in the second half. Definitely wanted to keep her minutes limited.”
Hawaii: Depth figured to be an issue, and it was. Only three Hawaii players scored in the first half, and just five for the game. Kallin Spiller did manage to reach double figures with 10.
“That was our concern coming out of halftime is we have to find people other than Amy, or we’re going to have a pretty good gap that we’re not going to be able to close,” coach Laura Beeman said.
Baylor: Size was a huge factor, also as expected with Smith and 6-3 frontcourt partner Egbo controlling the lane. The Bears outscored the Rainbow Wahine 54-12 in the paint and had a 56-35 rebounding edge. Atwell, a 6-foot guard from Australia and the Big West Conference player of the year, frequently was trying to guard Smith down low.
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