OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — After the Lady Bears’ 34-point Sweet 16 win over Louisville, Kim Mulkey said, “Guys, we’re on a roll.”
And the Baylor coach is right.
The Lady Bears enter their Elite Eight match-up against Mississippi State with an average margin of victory at 54.3 points in the first three rounds.
Sure, the Texas Southern blowout helps these numbers, but Baylor set the NCAA record for margin of victory (89 points) behind their efficient play.
Yes, the Lady Bears were bigger. They shot 63.2 percent from the floor and held Texas Southern to 13.8 percent.
Baylor outrebounded Texas Southern by 41 while putting up 63 points off the bench.
Everyone contributed and followed the game plan.
Next up was Cal.
The Golden Bears’ coach Lindsay Gottlieb said before the game that this Baylor team is legit.
She repeated herself after the Lady Bears won by 40.
Baylor held big-time scorer Kristine Anigwe in check the entire game while limiting Cal overall to only 29.3 percent from the floor.
Move on to Louisville when the Lady Bears shot 50 percent from the floor with five Baylor players in double figures and 46 points off the bench.
“We’re a team with a lot of talent,” Nina Davis said. “We have a lot of depth. We can score at every position one through five. We share the ball well. As you can see, we have a good assist-to-turnover ratio. We’re just a team that know how to play together.”
Season Scoring Margin Rebounding Margin Double figure scorers Field goal % Opponent Field goal % Bench points 3-point % Paint points 2013-14 16.7 11.3 3 46.9 40.5 17.3 34.9 47.3 2014-15 28.3 16.7 3.7 48.4 29.6 26.7 32.9 36 2015-16 27.3 11.7 3 48.4 32.6 23.3 41.2 42 2016-17 54.3 22.7 4.7 53.7 24.4 43.7 39.5 55.3
Final Four aspirations
When asked what it would mean to her to advance to the Final Four, Alexis Jones casually leaned up to the microphone and answered, “It would mean that we made it to the Final Four.”
Her teammates on the stand laughed at Jones’s answer before providing some of their own.
For Kristy Wallace, a Final Four would be a huge deal.
“It’s a goal that me and the team have had for a while now,” she said. “We’ve made that Elite Eight. I’ve made it twice. I know Nina has made it three times, Prince has made it three times.”
Alexis Prince wants to “finally” get over the hump and see how Baylor plays once they get there.
As for sophomore Kalani Brown, she wants to advance solely for her coach and teammates.
“I know how much it means to Coach and our seniors,” Brown said. “It means it’s that much important to me that we get our seniors to a Final Four.”
Teaira McCowan isn’t a complete stranger to the Baylor program.
The 6-foot-7 Mississippi State sophomore — and Brenham, Texas, native — was recruited by Baylor.
“Baylor recruited me a lot in high school,” McCowan said. “Like, they were on me hard. I had to look at how many bigs they had. I just came to where I thought I would be best fit and could contribute to the team.”
She hasn’t had to go up against any other 6-foot-7 players in a while.
When McCowan thought about it, the last opponent she faced that was that size was Baylor’s Kalani Brown.
“I played against Kalani in AAU on summer,” McCowan said. “That’s probably the last time. ... I think it’s just going to be size going against size. It’s going to be a great match-up.”
Added Brown: “She’s a big, strong post. If you let her bury you or get you deep, she’ll punish you in there.”
It’s rare for both of them to take on someone else who is their size.
The challenge that awaits Sunday will be attacking more of a one-on-one defense rather than double teams.
“You may not have to worry about the double-team,” Brown said. “But definitely getting my shot over her length is probably going to be the biggest challenge.”
In Baylor’s loss to West Virginia in the Big 12 title game, Mulkey wasn’t pleased with how her Lady Bears started that game.
Since then, Baylor has come out of the gates strong.
By the first media timeout — which is midway through the first quarter — the Lady Bears led Texas Southern 50-7, California 15-7 and Louisville 12-6.
“I think it’s important for us to start out maybe not necessarily quickly, but it’s important for us to start out strong,” Jones said. “It’s important for us to start out with energy. It’s important to start out and let them know that we came to play, to let them know we’re going to come to play defense, we’re going to rebound, we’re going to do all the dirty work; that we ready to play this game.”
From 2010 to 2014, Kim Mulkey coached her daughter Makenzie Robertson.
Now she prepares to take on a coach in Vic Schaefer who is also coaching his daughter, Blair.
“He’s probably a lot smarter than I was,” Mulkey said. “He’s playing his daughter earlier than I played mine. I kind of made her suffer a little bit more because you tend to be a little bit harder on your own kids. It’s good to see. I wish there were more, you know, fathers, mothers coaching their kids.
“Tricia at Quinnipiac, I’ll never forget a communication I got from her when I was coaching my daughter, because her daughter was getting ready to go into her program. The words she said to me, to see the success her team is having, it just touches my heart. I just have a special place in my heart for coaches who can coach their own kids, do it fairly, and win. He’s doing that with his child.”
Blair entered the NCAA Tournament averaging five points per contest for Mississippi State.
But in tournament play, Blair has upped her production to 16 points per game.
“Well, Coach is playing her a little bit more,” Vic said. “That’s probably helped a little bit. ... For her, again, she’s prepared all her life for this moment. There’s no moment too big for her. She’s shooting the ball well. ... Nobody wants to win more than her. She’s a competitor. She’s tough. Step in front of a freight train and take a charge. She’s my best help-side defender. Brings a lot to the table.”