By Matt Larsen
Overcoming a Reed Arena crowd and a No. 5/6 Aggie squad may have been the toughest conference challenge for Baylor this season, but the Lady Bears should not expect a much easier foe when they host No. 13 Oklahoma at 7 p.m. today at the Ferrell Center.
“I don’t anticipate tomorrow’s game to be any different than what you saw at A&M,” head coach Kim Mulkey said in a press conference Tuesday. “It’s just going to come down to players making plays in the crunch.”
Like the Aggies, the Sooners (16-4 overall) sit at 6-1 in the Big 12. The head-to-head matchup knocks them to third in conference standing, however, as Oklahoma’s only loss came at the hands of the Aggies, 80-78, just two games ago.
Most recently, the Sooners came off an 82-77 road win against in-state rival Oklahoma State.
The Sooners boast a wealth of talent around the perimeter and find ways to cash in on 3-pointers more consistently than anyone else in the Big 12. Nationally, they rank fifth, sinking 8.4 treys a game.
“They’ve always shot it well; they probably just have more [three point shooters] on the floor together at the same time,” Mulkey said. “They spread the floor on you.”
To spread the floor successfully, the Sooners need a go-to scorer and distribution-savvy point guard.
It just so happens that with senior guard Danielle Robinson, they get both.
“Danielle Robinson is the engine that makes them go,” Mulkey said. “She can score 30 and you can’t stop her. But what she does that’s so impressive is that if you focus on Danielle Robinson and stopping her, she’s going to find the open player. Then you’re going to get burned by that player.”
Often that open player is freshman Aaryn Ellenberg spotting up behind the 3-point line.
Second only to Robinson’s 19.3 points a game, Ellenberg puts up 17.1 a contest. The three-time Big 12 Freshman of the Week leads her team with a .438 percentage from behind the arc.
When it isn’t Ellenberg spotting up for a three, it’s one of the four other guards who all shoot better than 33 percent from three-point land.
When it comes to defending the wealth of talented guards, Mulkey expects plenty of screens around the perimeter and knows that just accounting for Robinson will not be enough.
“I don’t think you stop a Danielle Robinson. I think that she’s that good,” the fifth-year coach said. “So you better be able to defend those other players and not let another player for Oklahoma have 20-plus points, or you’re probably not going to win the basketball game because Robinson’s going to get her points.”
The Sooners’ senior point guard will likely match up against Baylor’s Odyssey Sims, the only freshman with more Big 12 Freshman of the Week honors than Ellenberg.
Sims provided 25 points and the answers when her team needed them last Sunday at Texas A&M.
“The wings weren’t going to be able to get open. They were doubling down on [sophomore post Brittney Griner], so I had to create myself some space,” the Lady Bears’ second-leading scorer said. “I had to work for my shot.”
Now her team may need her just as much on the defensive end as they did offensively against the Aggies.
“I think a lot of people are very excited to see that matchup,” senior guard Melissa Jones said. “They’re so valuable to each team that it’s going to be exciting to watch.”