OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma City. Sweet 16. Louisville.
It brings back memories for Kim Mulkey of the Cardinals’ hot perimeter shooting as Louisville knocked off her defending national title squad in 2013.
It’s been four years, and only Alexis Prince remains from that squad.
Other than the fifth-year senior, Mulkey isn’t sure any of the other Lady Bears remember anything about it.
“I don’t even know if they watch current basketball games,” the Baylor coach said. “I’d have to go ask them what they were doing when we played that game. Some of them may have watched it on television. Maybe two current staff members were a part of that. … I mean, there’s probably three of us in that locker room that remember that.”
While the rosters are completely different from that game years ago, the identity of each team remains the same.
For Louisville it’s guard play.
That’s what helped the Cardinals prevail over Tennessee in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Asia Durr leads the Louisville firing squad shooting 40.1 percent from the 3-point line as she averages 19.2 points per game.
More than half of Durr’s shot attempts this season have come from behind the arc.
When asked what stands out to her most about the sophomore guard, Mulkey responded, “That I recruited her and didn’t get her.
“She’s a phenomenal player. She can score from the perimeter. She can take you off the dribble. She was not healthy last year. Now she’s healthy, and you’re seeing the real Asia Durr. She’s just a handful to guard. They do a lot of things with her and through her. She is the catalyst that makes them go.”
While Durr leads the charge, Myisha Hines-Allen and Mariya Moore aren’t that far behind.
Hines-Allen is a double-double machine for Louisville, while Moore is the second-best 3-point shooting Cardinal.
While Louisville has the scorers, don’t expect Jeff Walz to use the same game plan he did four years ago.
“Our goal (in 2013) was to shoot 40 3s,” the Louisville coach said. “We are not going to look to do that right now. We have a very strong inside game, mid-range game. Myisha Hines-Allen, Kylee Shook, Ciera Johnson; we have some kids that can score on the low block. Four years ago, that really wasn’t our strength.”
But it’s still Baylor’s go-to.
This year, though, the Lady Bears have more depth.
As Kristine Anigwe said after Baylor topped Cal on Monday, one big goes out and another one comes in who is just as good.
“My strength is my post,” Mulkey said. “They have got to guard my bigs. I think that obviously we’ve got our hands full with the three perimeter players for Louisville, and yet on the other side, I think they may have their hands full guarding our post.”
While defense will be key Friday night, Walz doesn’t want fans expecting the game to be 61-58.
He even pointed back to the 2013 match-up when people praised his defensive game plan against Baylor.
But he wasn’t too pleased with the effort on that end.
“We gave up 81 points, and they averaged 81 points,” Walz said. “Our defense was average, but we scored the most points anybody has ever scored against them during the Brittney Griner era. So you have to put points on the board. That’s the same way with this ballclub right now. They have so much size inside. Their guards are very good.”
Of those 81 points Baylor scored four years ago, 76 of them came from the starters.
This time around, the Lady Bears are much deeper.
In the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Baylor reserves scored 97 of the team’s 205 points.
Sophomore Beatrice Mompremier and freshman Lauren Cox came off the bench to average 14.5 and 12 points during those two games.
Freshman Natalie Chou isn’t far behind with nine points per NCAA contest.
“I think Lauren Cox and Natalie Chou are good, and they are really surfacing now and showing their talents,” Mulkey said. “It’s because they are confident now. They’ve been through a whole season, and I really think those two kids, they are playing well. They’re going to see the floor. Because they are playing well now, it makes us a better team.”
Along with depth, rebounding will be another major factor in this game.
Louisville stresses offensive rebounding, following their shot after putting it up.
Overall, the Cardinals rebound 40.7 percent of their own misses.
Baylor leads the country on the defensive glass rebounding 80 percent of its opponent’s misses.
“Louisville, they may not be as big as us, but they are just as aggressive,” sophomore Kalani Brown said. “So I’m just going to have to bring that same aggressiveness when it comes to rebounding. Nobody is just going to let you have it.”
Especially not in the Sweet 16.