After returning from a hamstring injury, it was expected that Baylor point guard Odyssey Sims would return to the court with fire in her eyes and extra motivation to win.
Sims impressed, and after only her second game back on the court she grabbed the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Player of the Week honor. Now, after scoring a season-high 27 points and six steals, the Lady Bears are looking to her to lead them in their next victory.
No. 3 Baylor will see No. 10 Tennessee Tuesday night in the Ferrell Center, but it will be a different Tennessee team than the Lady Bears have met in the past. It will be a team without its legendary head coach, Pat Summitt.
After announcing her retirement in April 2012, Summitt and the Lady Vols went on to play the Lady Bears in what would be Summitt’s last game of her career. Baylor ended Tennessee’s 2011-12 season in Iowa at the Des Moines Regional, toppling the Lady Vols in the regional final 77-58.
“I think having been the team that played them last – Pat [Summit]’s last game last year – that probably put some closure to that for me in that I realized this is it…” Mulkey said about the end of Summitt’s career.
With one freshman, three sophomores, and only one junior starting for Tennessee, along with a first-year head coach, the young team may execute differently, but seems to be just as efficient as they were during the era of Summitt.
“The tradition of the program and their history speaks for itself,” Mulkey said. “[It’s] a totally different Tennessee type of offense than what you traditionally used to see with Pat (Summitt). Holly (Warlick) has her own identity and she knows her personnel.”
But, even with new head coach Holly Warlick, who has spent 31 years with the Tennessee women’s basketball program as a player and coach, Mulkey knows there are parts of Summitt that will never leave the program.
“The one thing that will always be a trademark of Tennessee teams is offensive rebounding,” Mulkey said. “I just think they fly to the glass and through the years of having played them as a player, coached against them at Louisiana Tech and now at Baylor, they always crash the offensive boards and that was one of the things that is like the Tennessee teams of old.”
Even Mulkey’s players, although all starters are veterans and national champions, know that just because the opponent is young does not mean it does not present a threat like the old Lady Vols teams.
“They’re just as athletic,” Baylor post Brittney Griner said. “They crash the board, like coach said. They fly in there…we just have to go in the game just like before and keep them off the board.”
In the Lady Bears last game before they get a break for Christmas, they need to come out to the court, forget the new coach and young players, and realize the battle they face on Tuesday may be new, but it will not be easy.
“We just know it’s a very important game and we have a lot of respect for Tennessee…we’re just going to come out and we’re going to play hard,” Sims said. -- Savannah Pullin