Baylor’s two longest road trips in the Big 12 — Iowa State and West Virginia — fall on the same week this season, with a home matchup against Texas Tech in between on Wednesday.
As such, now is proving to be a good time for the fourth-ranked Lady Bears (19-1, 6-1 Big 12) to get a solid evaluation of where their team stands as conference play closes in on the midway point. Should they win all three games this week, they’ll wrap up the month of January with a perfect 8-0 record.
After taking care of Iowa State, 77-61, on Saturday, Texas Tech (10-9, 1-7) awaits Baylor at the Ferrell Center. The Red Raiders have been taken for a bit of a rough ride in conference play, having lost seven of their first eight Big 12 games.
But Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey says the record is deceiving when compared to the team’s quality of play.
“I don’t see a 1-7 record,” Mulkey said. “I see a team that’s much improved, I see a team that plays extremely hard. They will be a difficult team for us to defend because they’re going to move their post players outside and set screens and try to take away me playing the big kids inside.
“When you look at Texas Tech, they’ve shot as many free-throws really as we have in conference, which tells you that they’re getting to the line pretty regularly. They have shot tons of 3s, but the thing that jumped out at me is how many field goal attempts they have. They have a lot more field goal attempts than we do, so that tells you that they’re putting it up.”
If anything, Wednesday’s game serves as a solid segue for a key conference matchup against West Virginia on Saturday. Both teams utilize an offensive strategy based at the perimeter, meaning Baylor’s post players might have to step out to defend a long-range shooter.
Texas Tech ranks fifth in the Big 12 in the 3-point shooting percentage (.329) on 350 attempts. West Virginia shoots at a lower percentage (.315) but has attempted more shots from the arc (381).
“It’s important game against Texas Tech, because you’re going to see similarities,” Mulkey said. “The only difference is that West Virginia is big at all positions. They’re 6-foot and bigger at all positions, Tech is not. But the style of play is very similar in that our post players are not just going to be to go down there and defend on the block. They’re going to have to come out and they’re going to have to defend post players that shoot the 3.”
The Red Raiders’ lone win in conference play was a 69-66 overtime triumph over Iowa State on Jan. 17. Ivonne CookTaylor led them with 21 points and 12 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.
CookTaylor is her team’s leading scorer with 14.5 points per game and is one of three Texas Tech players averaging double figures.
Point guard Japreece Dean averages 11.7 points per game and is dishing out 3.4 assists a contest. At 5-foot-6, Mulkey compared her to Oklahoma State guard Roddricka Patton.
“She has quickness, she has confidence, she makes them run with her,” Mulkey said. “She’s just very active. When she makes mistake offensively or defensively, it’s always being active, and you can live with that as a coach. She’s very confident, she’ll take you off the dribble, she’ll shoot open shots. She fits the mold of a typical Texas Tech point guard — somebody that leads them out there.”
Rayven Brooks is averaging 10.3 points per game and is the Red Raiders’ main sharpshooter with 97 attempts from beyond the arc (.351 average).
Leashja Grant, a transfer from Trinity Community College, is the team’s leading rebounder with 7.3 boards a game. She’s also scoring 9.7 points.
At 6-foot-2, Grant is the tallest player in the Red Raiders’ starting lineup, meaning they’ll be outsized by a more imposing Baylor group that rotates four posts standing 6-3 or taller. They make up for it in athleticism and ability to spread the floor.
“They don’t have a big post presence like a Kalani (Brown) or a (West Virginia’s Lanay) Montgomery. It’s more of an athletic body. And they all score. They all look to take you off the dribble ... They’ll spread the floor on you, and what you’ll see defensively won’t be bulk strength. It’ll be more athleticism.”
A long-standing showdown that dates back to both teams’ Southwest Conference days, Texas Tech leads the all-time series 47-34, mostly due to a 39-game win streak that lasted from 1984-2002. The Red Raiders won a national championship during that span in 1993.
Since the streak ended, Baylor has taken over the series, winning 25 of the next 31 meetings, including the last nine.
“I anticipate them to never quit,” Mulkey said. “They’re always going to be active. They push the ball up the floor. I just don’t look at their 1-7 and think they’re a bad team.”