After two road wins, the most recent being an important victory over 2012 NCAA championship game opponent Notre Dame, the national champion Lady Bears return home to host Oral Roberts University on Wednesday at 6 p.m. CT.
“We watched the film, talk about, correct some things, and move on to the next game,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said about the Lady Bears’ most recent game at Notre Dame.
Unfortunately for Mulkey and her Lady Bears, it’s hard to correct things that need correcting when the whole team is rarely able to practice together as one unit.
“It first starts with being able to have everybody be in practice on a consistent basis, and we really haven’t had that, and I don’t know when we’ll have it soon,” Mulkey said. “When you don’t have full strength with all your players it just takes away from the continuity and takes away from your timing, yet at the same time, nothing you can do about it; injuries are injuries and it’s better to get them well now than in January.”
One of Baylor’s most critical players, point guard Odyssey Sims, returned to the floor against Notre Dame after missing four games with a hamstring injury. In her return, Sims added 16 points for the Lady Bears.
Aside from Sims’ injury, Mulkey says she is working on developing the same endurance in the freshman that is visible in the upperclassmen, while also trying to improve on the tenacity of those upperclassmen.
The Lady Bears are 3-0 against Oral Roberts under Mulkey, but a powerful offense and new coach could present a challenge for Baylor this go-around.
Oral Roberts head coach Misti Cussen will appear in her first game against Baylor as head coach tomorrow night. Cussen spent 16 years as assistant coach for the Golden Eagles and was part of 273 victories, five NCAA Tournament appearances and three Women’s NIT appearances.
Oral Roberts guard Kevi Luper, who became the 74th player in NCAA Division I to score 2,400 career points during the Golden Eagles’ victory over Evangel on Dec. 5, is one of the nation’s top-scoring athletes averaging 23.2 points per game – 1.8 more than Brittney Griner.
In the last meeting between the two teams, Luper led Oral Roberts with 32 points, eight rebounds, one block, one assist, and three steals.
“I think those that were here back then better remember [Luper] had like 30 plus on us last time,” Mulkey recalls. “And of course, they have a new coach, the assistant, Cussen, is their head coach now, but they do what a lot of teams do to us – spread the floor on you and bring your bigs away from the basket, and we will have to do a good job of staying active defensively.”
To neutralize the threat of Luper, Mulkey plans to use one of her experienced veterans who can keep up with Luper on the floor – guard Jordan Madden.
“Of course, Jordan (Madden) will always have the best player on the perimeter for the opposing team, and fortunately for Jordan, she can go long periods of time…but you’d like to be able to find the next defensive stopper on the wing,” Mulkey said.
Madden leads Baylor with 35 assists, 27.3 minutes played and 16 steals. She averages 9.3 points and 4.1 rebounds while shooting .556 from the floor.
“I’m sure with their size and our size we’ll see a lot of zone, which we have, but I respect the heck out of them because they play within their abilities and they have an offense that really is hard to defend when you’re as big as we are,” Mulkey said.
After the game against Oral Roberts, Baylor will have only two non-conference games left – one of those two remaining games being against No. 13 Tennessee – before conference play begins, and Baylor is looking to make the most of it.
“You want to win every one of those non-conference games,” Mulkey said. “Well, unfortunately we can’t win them all now, but what you can do is you can finish it with only one loss. So you put yourself in a position to try to win all you can that remain in non-conference then we’ll kind of shove that to the side and get ready for the more important part of [our] schedule, and that’s conference.”
Wednesday’s game will be the first of a double header aired on Fox Sports Southwest that features the men against Lamar at 8:30 p.m. CT. -- Savannah Pullin