By Matt Larsen
After a 76-37 win over Kansas in which “dominance” just rolled off the tongue, the No. 1 Lady Bears look to carry over pretty much everything when they return home to face Texas Tech at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It was one of those nights where you want to bottle it up and hang on to it,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “That basketball team that I got to coach [Wednesday] night was special.”
One of the aspects they will look to carry over will be rebounding. The Lady Bears outrebounded the Jayhawks 55-25 and sit atop the conference in rebound margin with a +11.5 mark.
The Red Raiders (16-2, 3-1) follow closely behind, however, outrebounding their opponents by an average of 10.1 a game. Baylor and Tech are the only two squads in the Big 12 that outrebound their opponents by double-digit margins.
Though the Red Raiders come off their first conference loss, falling 71-61 to Oklahoma in Norman, fifth-year head coach Kristy Curry has her squad off to its best start yet.
“Kristy has her own recruits in there now, and they’re becoming more comfortable with her,” Mulkey said. “She’s got some players that she didn’t have last year that are making her better.”
One of the newcomers and biggest contributors has been senior post Teena Wickett. Wickett transferred from Pepperdine and regained eligibility in time for her senior season.
“They’ll only have her for a year, but she’s an impact for them,” Mulkey said.
Wickett joins junior post Kierra Mallard to lead their team in points and rebounds. Mallard posts 13.7 points and eight boards a game while Wickett notches 10.4 points and seven boards.
Another transfer who has helped guide the Lady Raiders this season is sophomore guard Casey Morris. She adds 8.9 points a game and loves shooting the three.
Morris has taken 77 shots from behind the arc this season and hit on 33.8 of them.
Mulkey made note of Morris as a newcomer picking up big minutes, though she has cooled off recently. The guard has yet to hit a three in Big 12 play.
Wickett, Mallard and Morris lead the team statistically, the Red Raider player drawing the most attention coming into the matchup is junior forward Jordan Barncastle.
The last time the two teams met in March 2010, Barncastle and Baylor sophomore post Brittney Griner engaged in a skirmish that ended in Griner punching Barncastle in the face.
Now a co-captain, Griner and her fellow captain, senior guard Melissa Jones, believe the incident has been put behind them.
“No, you know, that was last year,” Griner said.
Jones hopes the fans, too, can put the incident in the past.
“I think this game will be talked about because it’s Barncastle and it’s Griner,” Jones said. “But again, that’s old news. That’s just something that was unfortunate. That’s not something that Brittney’s proud of, we’re proud of. The fans, I can’t control them all. If I did, I would tell them to appreciate the game. Don’t even think about that stuff.”
When it comes to the game, the Lady Bears will once again be focused on rebounding.
Junior transfer Destiny Williams joins Griner and redshirt sophomore Brooklyn Pope to form a formidable trio of post players that Mulkey believes will keep bringing down the boards.
Williams received the start at the four spot alongside Griner the past two games and Mulkey anticipates her continuing to get the start over Pope.
“I just think Brook can come into a game right now and be more relaxed instead of trying to make things happen,” Mulkey said. “And, you know, she’s so powerful, and when you can have a Destiny and a Brooklyn going in and out of the game, you just don’t lose anything.”