Big 12 hoops action in full swing
By Matt Larsen
At No. 1 in the nation in both the AP and Coaches Poll, Baylor women’s basketball is, to put it simply, good.
Statistics like being in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense, scoring defense, field goal percentage, field goal percentage defense, 3-point percentage defense, turnovers per game, blocked shots per game and assist to turnover ratio seem to back up their ranking. (They also sit at No. 11 nationally in rebound margin and 3-point field goal percentage.)
In spite of the stats, the Lady Bears (16-1, 3-0) boast a relatively young group that features just two seniors and three juniors.
Though the early season feel seems to be fading from the Ferrell Center, head coach Kim Mulkey remains content using a deep bench.
“We have no starting five. The thirteen that are in uniform could go out there and start for us,” she said. “I feel very comfortable with everybody healthy and everybody eligible. We’ve got lots of things we can do now, and it’s because of the personnel.”
Though neither starting roles or the roles of heavy contributors off the bench have been settled just yet, a knowledge of roles once on the floor make Mulkey’s job easier since she knows exactly what she can expect when she calls a name to check in.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore center calls the paint her home. Averaging nearly five blocks per contest, the co-captain is the biggest reason the Lady Bears block the most shots per game in the nation (7.2).
Griner also leads the squad on the offensive end with 22 points per game and hauls in the most boards (7.4). She also draws a crowd of opposing defenders in the lane that her perimeter-dwelling teammates benefit from.
Knocking down 13.4 points per game, the true freshman has established herself as the second leading scorer on the team and the one who cashes in most frequently from the perimeter when defenses double-down on Griner.
She holds the highest average from 3-point land as well as the most attempts, dropping 34-70, just one make shy of .500.
Tabbed the “momma” of the team by her coach, the 5-foot-11 senior leads from her captain role for the second year in a row. She averages 9.6 points a game, but leads primarily through her team-high 35 steals and 60 assists.
Multiple opposing coaches have recognized Jone’s contributions to the team after the game.
“To me Melissa Jones is the reason why they are going to win a championship,” Michigan State head coach Suzy Merchant. “She is just a tough nut. She does everything she can; she is the glue to that team.”
Kimetria Hayden and Jordan Madden
Nicknamed “flash” and “dash,” the pair of speedsters contribute 7.6 and 4.5 points a game respectively. Hayden shares point guard responsibilities with Sims and has picked up 34 steals, just one shy of Jones.
Meanwhile, the 6-foot Madden adds her own touch on the defensive end.
“Jordan Madden is a long, lanky body that can harass the ball and she is quick enough that she can catch up and block it from behind,” Mulkey said.
Brooklyn Pope and Destiny Williams
Prior to January, Pope, who averages 7.9 points and 6.6 rebounds a contest, had the No. four spot mostly to herself.
After sitting out a full calendar year to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements, Williams started making an immediate impact. In her first six games she has averaged 8.8 points an outing with a .618 field goal percentage.
Though Williams earned the start against Oklahoma State last Saturday, Mulkey believes both will be key components for the rest of the season.
“She is a totally different type of four player than Brooklyn,” the 10-year coach said. “You can’t compare the two styles of play. When you have the two of those guys to choose from at the four, you better stay on top of your game as a coach, because they can both be of value through the course of a basketball game.”
Where they go from here
Though they sit at No. 1 in the country, the Lady Bears feel they have only up to go from here.
What’s more, they know exactly what their next step needs to be.
“Rebounding is our number one thing right now,” Williams said.
The Lady Bears rank eleventh nationally in rebound margin, but feel their height should lead to more boards than it does currently, especially with their most recent edition at the four spot.
Williams and company will get a chance to improve their rebounding tonight at Kansas University at 7 p.m.