Kim Mulkey Baylor basketball

Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey and the No. 4 Lady Bears can clinch a share of the Big 12 title with a win against Texas Tech.

Rod Aydelotte

Kim Mulkey never lacks incentive for winning. Doesn’t matter the activity, doesn’t matter the day of the week. The veteran Baylor coach wants to win – period.

But the incentives are there in spades for Mulkey and the Lady Bears on Saturday.

Should No. 4 Baylor defeat visiting Texas Tech, it would clinch a share of the program’s seventh straight Big 12 championship. As the final home regular-season game, it’s also Senior Day for the Lady Bears’ four seniors – Nina Davis, Alexis Jones, Alexis Prince and Khadijiah Cave – and the team wants to send that group out in style.

Oh, and then there’s the not-so-small matter of getting Mulkey halfway to a thousand. A victory would be the 500th of Mulkey’s 17-year head coaching career, as she holds a 499-94 career mark.

“It kind of embarrasses me to talk about it, because we’re only as good as our players,” Mulkey said. “And I’m only as good as the assistants that can go out and recruit players. But once they get here, I guess if you had to just sum it up, we’ve remained consistent. We’ve won a lot of games through the years, and we’ve won a lot of championships through the years.”

Another Big 12 championship is squarely in Baylor’s crosshairs. The Lady Bears put themselves in that position by charging from behind to topple Texas, 70-67, in Austin on Monday night.

The seniors have experienced the Big 12 celebration three times before, the balloons and the net-cutting and all the rest of the accompanying hoopla. They said they want nothing more than to cement a victory over the Lady Raiders and give Baylor fans another reason to party.

“It’s been an amazing experience, especially that we get to celebreate it at home in front of the fans,” Cave said. “So if we win Saturday, you’ll still enjoy it in front of our fans.”

The seniors sense the sand spilling through the hourglass. While Saturday will mark their final regular season game in front of the home fans, they’ll still get a chance to play in Waco for the first two games of the NCAA tournament.

But when they think back to four – or in Prince’s case, five – years ago, they realize that a lot has changed.

“The lights are not as bright,” Davis said. “I think the first time I was out there my freshman year, everything seemed to go so fast. The crowd was loud, I was definitely nervous. It’s bittersweet.

“I’m not really trying to focus on that too much, not be too emotional about that, because we will have two more games here in the tournament. But, it’s just been great – the fan support here, my teammates that I’ve had, the coaches – it’s just been a great opportunity.”

At least one of the seniors is unlikely to take the court on Saturday. Jones suffered a bone bruise to her knee in Monday’s victory over Texas, and has been classified as “day to day” with the ailment. Mulkey said on Thursday that the team would “keep our fingers crossed that somewhere in March we can get her back.”

Jones’ absence will give more of the ballhandling load to junior guard Kristy Wallace (6.6 ppg, 5.1 apg). Meanwhile, freshmen Natalie Chou and Calveion “Juicy” Landrum could see additional minutes as backup point guards.

Baylor pounded Texas Tech, 79-61, in the teams’ first meeting in Lubbock on Feb. 4. In that game, the Lady Raiders had no answer for post Kalani Brown, who produced a monster second half on her way to 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Brown’s confidence should be booming, as she is coming off her most dominant effort of the year, with a career-high 35 points and 15 rebounds against the Longhorns.

“Kalani’s personality is she’s happy, she’s pleasant, she’s sweet,” Mulkey said. “I want that body to go with somebody that’s just mean all the time when she hits that floor. And you have to prod her into doing that. She certainly was a presence at Texas.”

Mulkey has never lacked for feisty passion herself. She has displayed that neverending competitive fire for the past 17 years at Baylor, winning seven Big 12 regular-season titles, making 15 NCAA tournament appearances and claiming two NCAA titles.

Davis was actually in uniform the last time Mulkey hit a big round-number milestone, for her 400{sup}th{/sup} victory in the Big 12 tournament in 2014.

“It’s been incredible,” Davis said. “It’s definitely been a great journey. It seems like it just happened. I remember when we put on the ‘400’ shirts, and we were celebrating. And she was like, ‘You want to take that shirt off?’ Because she doesn’t really like that attention. And now to be here 100 games later, and we’re about to win her 500th game, I’m just glad that we could be a part of it.”

Bear Facts: Baylor will honor seniors Davis, Cave, Prince and Jones in a halftime ceremony. … Mulkey’s career winning percentage is .841, which is the same as former Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who won a record 1,098 games in 38 seasons. … If Baylor wins on Saturday, it would have a chance to claim an outright Big 12 title on Monday at Oklahoma.

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