COX Channel Kansas | Radio (Baylor Sports Network IMG College 1660 AM/92.9 FM in Waco) | Live Stats | Twitter | Game Notes
Radio: Baylor Sports Network IMG College, 1660 AM/92.9 FM in Waco
Talent: Rick May (pxp), Lori Fogleman (color)
Live Stats/In-Game: Nicholls State
Twitter: @BaylorWBB | #SicEm
Ranking: 6 - AP, 6 - Coaches
Last Game: Dec. 18, 2017 win vs. Nicholls State, 85-43
Head Coach: Kim Mulkey
Career Record: 516-96 (18th season)
BU Record: 516-96 (18th season)
Ranking: NR - AP, NR - Coaches
Last Game: Dec. 21, 2017 loss vs. Northern Iowa, 72-71
Head Coach: Jeff Mittie
Career Record: 523-276 (26th Season)
KSU Record: 69-41 (4th Season)
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Foundation
Kim Mulkey knows she can't just tell the Baylor freshmen about how different the Big 12 is, they have to experience it for themselves.
That starts Thursday, when the sixth-ranked Lady Bears (10-1) open defense of their league title with a matchup against Kansas State (8-3) at 7 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan, Kan.
"That's not something you can teach the freshmen," Mulkey said. "The sophomores know, but some of those sophomores didn't get the minutes that they are having to play now. So, they're going to get a true taste of a zone defense. Kansas State, more so than anybody in our league, is committed to zone defense."
Jeff Mittie, now in his fourth season at K-State after 15 years at TCU, is known for zone defense and shooting 3-pointers. The Wildcats lost 6-5 center Breanna Lewis from a 23-win team that made the second round of the NCAA Tournament, but they have a pair of senior starters in 6-3 Kaylee Page (9.8 ppg) and 6-1 Shaelyn Martin (6.5 ppg, 8.5 rebounds) and are led by junior guard Kayla Roth (16.5 ppg, 6.6 assists).
"They lost a big presence in the paint (Lewis) . . . but they've got a couple seniors and a couple kids that were waiting for their opportunity to play," Mulkey said. "You're going to see the zone, obviously, that's a big part of what he does. Then, the 3-point shooting is a big part of what he does, and they still do that."
Using an inside-outside balance, Baylor leads the nation in scoring offense (91.9) and scoring margin (plus-36.6), ranks second in field goal percentage (52.3) and third in 3-point shooting percentage (42.2).
Junior post Kalani Brown (22.0 ppg, 8.8 rebounds) and sophomore forward Lauren Cox (14.8 ppg, 9.3 rebounds, 2.6 blocks) have been one of the most dominant inside duos in the country. Senior point guard Kristy Wallace is averaging 11.5 points and 5.3 assists, while sophomore guards Natalie Chou (9.5 ppg) and Juicy Landrum (6.8 ppg) have both hit a team-high 18 3-pointers.
"I think people misunderstand and say, `Make them shoot it outside.' Well, we can shoot it outside," Mulkey said. "Logic tells you a layup is a heck of a lot better than a 30-footer. And when you've got that kind of size inside, you've got to make them guard you. But look at Juicy Landrum, Natalie Chou, Kristy Wallace, those kids can flat-out shoot it out there. They just don't have to do it as much as a lot of teams in our league do."
Against K-State's zone defense, "the bottom line is you're going to have to have post touches," Mulkey said. "It's great if you're hitting from the perimeter, bit you're not going to win if you don't have post touches."
"We're going to have to be able to hit shots on the perimeter," Wallace said, "because they might pack it in, especially with our bigs in there. But, we have the guards to do that."
After missing the last two games to rest her knees, 6-2 senior forward Dekeiya Cohen (9.4 ppg, 7.7 rebounds) gives the Lady Bears another inside option to go with Brown and Cox.
"As expected, she came back a little rusty and missing shots, short on shots and just getting her motor going again," Mulkey said. "But, it's the right thing to do. I did it last year with (Alexis) Jones. . . . It wasn't an injury or anything like that. It's just a history of ACL, swelling (in her knees) a lot through the years. And she's playing more minutes now than she's ever played. So, when you can rest her, rest her."
Baylor has been easily the most dominant team in the Big 12 over the last decade, winning seven consecutive regular-season conference championships and making four straight Elite Eight berths. But, the league boasts three other ranked teams with Texas (9-1) at No. 8, West Virginia (12-0) at No. 9 and Oklahoma State (9-2) at No. 24.
"I think there's probably four teams that have separated themselves in non-conference play," Mulkey said. "But, will those four teams separate themselves during the conference season? I don't know. I think it's just going to be that good of a league again. . . . Each team continues to recruit and bring something to the table that makes you understand that every game is tough."
After Thursday's conference opener on the road, the Baylor women host back-to-back home games with Texas Tech (6-5) at 1 p.m. Sunday and Iowa State (6-5) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
"It's really exciting," Chou said. "The team and I have been working really hard for this moment. We know that conference play is the most important part of the season."
BIG 12 TIME
For the No. 6/6 Baylor Lady Bears (10-1, 0-0), the Big 12 Conference season begins on the road at Kansas State (8-3, 0-0) on Thursday Dec. 28. The 7 p.m. (CT) contest will air on COX Channel Kansas.
Fans can tune in to Rick May (play-by-play) and Lori Fogleman (analyst) on the Baylor Sports Network, IMG College and the radio in Waco on 1660AM and 99.1FM. The game will also be broadcast on COX Channel Kansas.
CONFERENCE OPENER HISTORY
● Since 1982-83, the Lady Bears are 19-6 in conference openers.
● Baylor is 12-9 in conference-opening games all-time since joining the Big 12 Conference.
● Under head coach Kim Mulkey's direction, Baylor has compiled a 12-5 record in Big 12 openers.
Baylor leads Kansas State, 30-8, in the all-time series.
The Lady Bears have won 26 consecutive games against the Wildcats, a streak that began on Feb. 2, 2005.
In games played in Manhattan, Kan., Baylor is 9-4.
The Lady Bears haven't lost to Kansas State since dropping a contest, 85-65, on Jan. 27, 2004, in Manhattan, Kan.
Kansas State compiled an 8-3 record in the preconference slate, including a 6-1 mark at home.
The Wildcats have faced two ranked opponents, falling to each (64-55 to No. 5/7 UCLA; 73-59 to No. 19/18 Missouri).
Kansas State averages 71.0 points, 36.2 rebounds, 16.0 assists, 9.3 steals and 5.7 blocks per contest.
Three players average double figure scoring, including Kayla Goth (16.5), Rachel Ranke (12.5) and Peyton Williams (12.3).
The roster, comprised of five freshmen, one sophomore, three juniors and three seniors, is led by fourth-year head coach Jeff Mittie.