By Krista Pirtle
The shot clock was irrelevant as the Lady Bears picked the pockets of Western State and ran the court for easy layups, bringing the No. 1 Baylor squad a 94-24 victory.
“It’s exciting,” sophomore point guard Odyssey Sims said. “We have a lot going for us and are looking forward to the season. We have a lot to prove.”
The only motives of an exhibition game against a team like Western State seems to be an easy victory, but Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said this season opener contained more than that.
“You get an opportunity to come out here before your fans and get a game-like setting,” Mulkey said. “You want to win but you are really not looking at the score. You are looking at kids just being able to get away from the practice setting and looking at different combinations.”
There was not much perimeter action for Baylor, seeing as only two athletes for the other team hit the 6-foot mark.
Quick reversals and feeds to the block brought in a 58.8 shooting percentage in the field goal range.
Sophomore point guard Odyssey Sims looked quick and healthy, as her knee has improved over the off-season.
“Her knee is healthy,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “She’s playing more like how we know her. I see flashes of progress everyday.”
Defensively, the height advantage and speed of Baylor brought a total of 11 blocks, led by junior center Brittney Griner with four, and 14 steals, led by Sims with six on the evening. Just before halftime, Griner went up for the dunk but could not finish it.
Mulkey’s response to the miss was to put Griner in the weight room because she looked fatigued.
“I thought I exploded up,” Griner said. “I was like oh yeah, but straight up embarrassed.”
The Lady Bears went into the locker room for halftime with a 53-11 lead, shooting 63.9 percent from the paint.
Halftime didn’t bring about the regular talk from Mulkey for the Lady Bears, but the team sported Halloween costumes and danced to Thriller as part of a giant flash mob.
Griner led her team in the wobble before heading back to the locker room.
The second half saw Baylor get out of its full court press.
“We want to press more,” Mulkey said. “When you have athleticism and some thoroughbreds out there, just let them loose to show their speed.”
As for the rest of the season, Baylor is ready to play up to the hype. This squad is no longer a young and inexperienced one, returning four starters (Sims, Jordan Madden, Destiny Williams, Griner) from its Elite Eight team.
The Lady Bears also bring back 88.5 percent of their scoring and 89.9 percent of individual rebounds.
New to the team is 6-foot-4-inch freshman post Sune Egbuke from San Antonio, who led her team to two state championships and was a McDonald’s All-American nominee.
“Sune is fine,” Mulkey said. “She is going every day against juniors. She’s going to have some tough lessons ahead of her, but it’ll only make her better. She’s extremely intelligent. Her mistakes will be made from inexperience not because she doesn’t understand.”
Now that her team is composed of mostly juniors, Mulkey cannot say that her team is completely ready.
“We are not a very polished team,” Mulkey said. “We were so fast, so fast, so fast. We’ll clean it up. It’s going to take some game experience. If we can continue to build you’ve got to replace a tremendous leader in Melissa Jones. That may take more than one to replace her. “
Mulkey is one win away from 300 career wins. She will try and reach that milestone at 7 p.m. Thursday when the Lady Bears take on St. Edwards at the Ferrell Center.