One of the first things this year’s freshmen class saw was the Lady Bears receiving their Big 12 regular season championship rings. That’s what they want to welcome next year’s class to as well.
“We don’t want to be one of the first ones not to be able to show our rings off like everyone else did,” freshman Didi Richards said. Because when we first got here, that’s the first thing we saw was them getting their rings from last year. So, it’s kind of our biggest goal at this point, I would say, and winning a national championship.”
No. 3 Baylor is currently two games ahead of the pack atop the Big 12 standings. Five games remain in the regular season with three of those contests on the road against teams in the top half of the league. The first coming Tuesday evening at Stillwater against the current third-place Big 12 team No. 21 Oklahoma State.
“You present it to them, but you don’t rely on anybody else,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “You’ve got five games, here’s where you are. You’ve got a two-game lead. You have to play three of the five on the road against very good teams. Let’s finish this thing strong. If something happens and you don’t win the Big 12 Championship, you make sure whoever beats you had to play an unbelievable game.”
A year ago, Alexis Morris was gearing up for the playoffs at Legacy Christian Academy in Beaumont. Now, the freshman guard is focused on finishing out the regular season strong as she readies for her first-ever trip to Stillwater.
“I think they’re strong in the post,” Morris said. “Their guards are pretty good. They have a really good point guard. We have to defend well, stay solid on defense and play well on the road. I heard it’s a hard place to win.”
Gallagher-Iba Arena will be rocking as the Cowgirls return home for the first time in a week. It was a big week for Oklahoma State as the Cowgirls defeated TCU on the road before holding off Iowa State in Ames.
During that two-game stretch, Kaylee Jensen could not be contained. The 6-4 senior averaged a double-double with 28.5 points and 14 rebounds as Jensen put up 22 points and 16 boards at TCU and then netted a career-high 35 points to go with 12 rebounds at Iowa State.
“They match up with us in the post,” Mulkey said. “Jensen is a big post player who matches up with Kalani well. Actually, both of their post players will shoot the 3. Kalani’s going to have to come out and defend on the perimeter.”
With Jensen and 6-3 Mandy Coleman starting in the front court, the Cowgirls pulled the Lady Bear bigs out and away from the basket but running pick and pops instead of pick and rolls. With Jensen shooting 11-31 (35.5 percent) from the 3-point line and Coleman hitting 18-54 (33.3 percent) from the perimeter, when those bigs set a screen on the ball, instead of rolling toward the basket, they pop out toward the 3-point line.
Against the Lady Bears, two of Coleman’s three makes and two of Jensen’s four makes came behind the 3-point line.
“That was tough for us,” Baylor sophomore Lauren Cox said about defending the pick and pop. “That’s what a lot of teams are going to do going forward. They’re going to bring the bigs out. We’re going to have to guard outside. I think now that we’ve seen it we’re used to it. I think it’ll be a little bit better the second time around.”
While the Cowgirls are strong inside, they’re equally dangerous outside. Loryn Goodwin orchestrates the offensive show for Oklahoma State. The 5-9 senior point guard leads the Big 12 with 21.2 points per game.
“Goodwin is a valuable part of their play this year,” Mulkey said. “She’s that sixth-year player that had the one year. She plays a lot like Skylar Diggins. Wallace did a great job on her here defensively. Playing at their place will be a little bit tougher. She’s used to those rims, but it’s going to be a battle.”
Less than two weeks ago, Wallace played well defensively and held Goodwin to 10 points off 4-of-19 shooting from the floor. Since that game, Goodwin has gone off for 25 points against Kansas, 24 points against TCU and 23 points against Iowa State.
“We ask a lot of Kristy,” Mulkey said. “Kristy always seems to have to guard the best perimeter player and then we ask her to score a lot of points, we ask her to score for us. If we could give Kristy a little bit of help on Goodwin defensively, it would help us.”
Last time out against Oklahoma State, the Baylor defense held Jensen and Goodwin below their scoring averages. In fact, the Lady Bears held every Cowgirl starter to below her average. It was the bench players that fared well offensively as the Oklahoma State bench outscored Baylor’s, 20-3. The biggest factor in that for the Cowgirls was LaTashia Jones who scored 14 points against the Lady Bears. Jones averages only three points per game.
“(Coach Mulkey) put an emphasis on not letting their bench players score more than their average,” Cox said. “I think last game we held every one of their starters except one under their average. We let all the bench players get more than their average. Definitely not relaxing when those starters go off the floor and the bench players come in.”