The best way to learn from a mistake is to have lived it.
That can sometimes be a harsh reality, but Baylor coach Kim Mulkey hopes her young team learned a valuable less from a 76-60 loss on the road to Kansas, a defeat that put an end to the Lady Bears’ 44-game winning streak in the Big 12 regular season and 53 in a row in conference play.
“I understand the bigger picture,” Mulkey said. “I understand how to protect them, but I also have to make them understand how to be prepared. Sometimes, when you have this much inexperience, you can show them and you can tell them, but it just doesn’t register until they live it. So now they’ve lived it.”
The 12th-ranked Lady Bears are happy to be back home, and they’ll try and put an end to a two-game losing streak when they host Kansas State at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Ferrell Center.
Baylor (14-3, 4-1) sits in third place in the Big 12 standings, half a game behind West Virginia and Oklahoma State (both 5-1).
The loss to the Jayhawks followed on the heels of an emotional 66-55 setback at home to No. 1 Connecticut last Monday. Mulkey gave the Lady Bears a couple days off to get over that game, but they came back with lackluster effort on the practice floor. It got to the point that Mulkey kicked the entire team out of practice Friday, the day before it left to play in Kansas.
The Lady Bears had defeated Kansas, 75-55, at home two weeks prior and seemed to think it was going to be the same way the second time around.
“It wasn’t that surprising, honestly, because if you’re going to show up to practice like that, that’s how you’re going to play,” Baylor guard Makenzie Robertson said. “If we’re not going to listen, that’s what happens. So we just have to not let it happen again, make sure we come out ready to work, with good attitudes, and listening, ready to learn.”
Odyssey Sims had a rough week shooting the ball, hitting only 17 of her 61 attempts in the two games.
Mulkey said she thought Sims forced some shots, but she was more concerned that her teammates were hesitant to shoot despite the all-American taking up two and sometimes three defenders.
“Those are things we’ve worked on, but at some point those teammates have to make those shots, too,” Mulkey said. “And that comes with confidence. That comes with maturity, and we’re going to keep trying to rush the process as much as we can, but some of that is to be expected.”
Sims faced a diamond-and-one against Kansas for much of the game. She scored 31 points, but that came on 37 shots.
The Lady Bears got only 10 points out of their five frontcourt players. Sune Agbuke had a productive game with 10 rebounds and six blocks, but managed only 26 minutes before fouling out with eight minutes left.
Mulkey said she’s been riding her post players and will continue to do so to try and get the best out of them.
“First off, you can’t be sensitive,” Agbuke said. “She’s not saying it because she doesn’t believe in you, even though sometimes you want to get down on yourself. She’s trying to pull it out of us, and that’s all you can really take (from it).
“You have to tune in to what she’s saying, and you have to give it your all because you know you can play better, she knows you can play better and you just have to keep going until you get there.”
The Lady Bears face a similar situation as they did against Kansas when they face the Wildcats, as it’s been less than three weeks since these teams have met. Baylor controlled the first meeting from the opening tap and cruised to a 92-63 win in the Big 12 opener for both teams and the first road game for many Lady Bears.
Baylor had everything working in that contest, as Sims’ 40 points came on only 19 shots and Agbuke took care of the inside with a career-high 16 points to go with 14 rebounds.
Kansas State (8-9, 2-4) is coming to Waco off of a big 80-74 win over then-No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday. The Wildcats will spread the Lady Bears out defensively with five perimeter players at times, meaning Baylor’s posts will have to guard on the perimeter.
Freshman Leticia Romero is Kansas State’s leading scorer (14.6 per game), rebounder (5.9) and assister (4.6), and Ashia Woods has come on lately to move into second place on the team’s scoring list at 11.0 per contest.
Woods hurt Baylor with 27 points in the first meeting and Romero added 20.
“Romero is a freshman from Spain, and she’s very good,” Mulkey said. “And she just really dictates the flow of their offense. She can take you off the dribble, she can shoot the 3. She is a body type like (Shoni) Schimmel from Louisville, that type of point guard.”
BEAR FACT: This contest will serve as Baylor’s “We Back Pat” game, supporting the Pat Simmitt Foundation in its fight against Alzheimer’s disease. Players from both teams, the Baylor spirit squad and Courtside Players will wear “We Back Pat” shirts.