By Jeffrey Swindoll
After the No. 12 Lady Bears trounced the Kansas State Wildcats on Wednesday night 71-48, the concerns surrounding Baylor’s inexperience and sloppy form against the Kansas Jayhawks was silenced, for now.
The win against Kansas State kept Baylor (15-3, 5-1) on track for contention in the Big 12 title race, but now the Bears face the co-leader of the conference, the No. 8 Oklahoma State Cowgirls (17-1, 6-1) on Sunday in a showdown featuring two of the Big 12’s best teams.
“You’re going to see two teams just really battle, but kind of different defensively,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “They’re good. They’re 17-1, and they’re ranked eighth in the country.”
Like Baylor, Oklahoma State has only one loss in conference play. Oklahoma State leads the league in scoring defense.
“They don’t play man-to-man,” Mulkey said. “The majority of their defense is the 2-3 zone, and they’re going to push it in transition and try to score.”
Baylor senior guard Odyssey Sims will be looking to pass the ball into the post on offense to counter Oklahoma State’s 2-3 zone defense.
“I prefer to play man more, but zone is fine,” Sims said. “It’s an opportunity for the bigs to score more. It gives them more freedom to actually move and flash. So, I think it’s more for the post and some for the guards.”
Mulkey expects to win regardless of the opponent, but she gives credit to Oklahoma State’s star players, like guard Tiffany Bias.
“Bias is, in my opinion, after Odyssey Sims, probably the best guard in her value to her team,” Mulkey said. “You’ll see two of the best guards going after it.”
Sims averages 30.4 points per game. The Lady Bears know opposing teams focus on stopping Sims, so Baylor is striving to spread the ball and take the pressure off Sims.
“I think a lot of us are trying to take that role a little bit just so we can take some pressure off Odyssey,” senior guard Makenzie Robertson said.
OSU’s Bias averages 14.3 points a game and her sophomore teammate Brittney Martin is averaging 13.2 points per game.
“Bias will just duck her head and go and take it right at you, and when you’re on the road you worry about turnovers,” Mulkey said. “We haven’t played many teams that have played a zone as consistently as Oklahoma State will. We’ve got to make sure we don’t just jack it up and turn it over and just be poised.”
The Cowgirls’ only loss came against conference rival West Virginia (17-2, 5-1). Earlier in the season, Baylor went on the road and beat West Virginia 78-62.
Baylor’s last road game in conference play ended up being its first loss in 44 straight conference games, but Mulkey said she sees the team turning the page after the way they responded against Kansas State.
Across the board, Mulkey feels her players match up well, but she specifically said the Cowgirls’ size on the perimeter and speed in transitional offense are a threat.
“The size on the perimeter affects you in rebounding because, matchup-wise, even though [Oklahoma State forward Liz] Donohoe is 6-foot, Makenzie [Robertson] will guard her at 5-8,” Mulkey said. “She’s a spot-up shooter, but what you do worry about is her going down to the block, posting you and rebounding.”
Donohoe averages 12.4 points an outing with 7.6 rebounds a game.
The game will be nationally televised on Fox Sports Network at 3 p.m. Sunday.