The Big 12 schedule has had its share of quirks this season.
One of them is that Baylor and Iowa State have yet to meet this season, despite the fact that only five games remain in the conference schedule.
The two teams will finally clash Wednesday, when they tip off a 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Ferrell Center.
“I know, here we are the last five or six games of the season, and we get to see them twice,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “You know what you’re going to see with Iowa State. You see it every time you play them.”
Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly has been with the team since the 1995-96 season, and his teams like to fire from long distance.
The Cyclones are expected to start with four guards on the floor, and their lone inside presence, Hallie Christofferson, has played on the perimeter for most of her career despite standing.
But while Iowa State is known for its 3-point shooting acumen, its guards do more than that.
“Their perimeter players are penetrating and getting to the foul line more so than in past teams,” Mulkey said. “Christofferson is playing the post more and doing just about whatever Bill wants her to do. We’d better be ready to defend the 3 and keep them off the foul line.”
The Cyclones (17-7, 6-7) are second in the nation in free throw percentage at .799, and they’re eight in 3-pointers made per game with 9.1.
Christofferson’s ability to play inside and out makes her a matchup problem, because Baylor will have to put one of its bigger players on her. That’s difficult because Christofferson has the skill to drive by a larger defender on the perimeter.
That versatility is part of the reason she’s the second-leading scorer in the conference with 19.1 points per game. If she can take her defender away from the basket, it also limits Baylor’s rebounding options.
Baylor (22-3, 12-1) is likely to start with Sune Agbuke or Kristina Higgins guarding Christofferson, but if neither is able to handle her quickness, forward Nina Davis could draw the assignment at times.
With Davis and Iowa State’s guard duo of Seanna Johnson and Jadda Buckley, this game will feature three of the league’s top freshmen. Between the three of them, they have grabbed 13 of the 16 Big 12 Freshman of the Week honors.
“(Johnson and Buckley are) getting a lot of playing time,” Mulkey said. “That’s the first thing you see, and freshmen getting on the floor, you’re going to get recognized in this league. Mixing their freshmen with their upperclassmen makes those freshmen look better, and they don’t play a lot of players.”
Davis and Johnson could be locked up against each other for much of the night. That would present a rarity for the 5-foot-11 Davis, as she’s used to playing against larger opponents at power forward. In that matchup, she would actually have an inch advantage in height.
“I am looking forward to the game,” Davis said. “This will be the first time I’m actually matched up with someone my size, and I’m going into the game knowing she’s one of the other top freshmen, I’m looking forward to going against her and seeing how it goes.”
Johnson is the Cyclones’ leading rebounder with 8.4 per game, and she’s one of four on the team averaging double-digit scoring with 10.2. Buckley puts in 10.8 points per night, with junior Nikki Moody rounding up that quartet at 12.7 per contest.
Iowa State plays a slow-paced halfcourt game, and Baylor wants to speed things up. That responsibility falls primarily to Odyssey Sims and the rest of the guards.
“They like to use all 30 seconds of the shot clock, so I think if you pressure them more – they don’t really like ball pressure – get out in the passing lanes, try to speed the game up it will be to our advantage,” Sims said.
A fence around Sims
When the Lady Bears have the ball, they can expect to see all kinds of defenses.
Most of them will be targeted to finding a way to slow down Sims, the nation’s leading scorer with 30.3 per outing.
“Bill has always done these unconventional defenses,” Mulkey said. “He’s box-and-oned Odyssey through the years, you’ve seen it where he’ll triangle-and-two some players, sagging man, they’re not a team that’s going to be aggressive and out there in the passing lanes, it’s almost like a matchup zone, but it’s a sagging man. It’s not that he’s just going to do it against us, he’s done it against a lot of teams this year.”