Lady Bears inspired by top men’s teams to stay No. 1

No. 1 guard Kimetria Hayden goes for a basket on Saturday at the Ferrell Center. The Bears remained undefeated by beating Kansas State 76-41.
No. 1 guard Kimetria Hayden goes for a basket on Saturday at the Ferrell Center. The Bears remained undefeated by beating Kansas State 76-41.
Meagan Downing | Lariat Photographer

By Krista Pirtle
Sports Writer

As top seeds fell all over the country in men’s hoops, No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears’ head coach Kim Mulkey watched it all.

She did not feel that she could fully enjoy the 1 p.m. matchup of the Baylor men’s team against Missouri because she knew she would be thinking about her game six hours later.

Thus, she was on her couch as first No. 3 Baylor, then No. 4 Duke, then No. 1 Syracuse became victims of defeat as the afternoon progressed.

Once she got in the locker room, she said she yelled at the girls.

Junior Brittney Griner grinned and nodded in response to her coach’s pregame speech.

“At home I watched the men, Duke and Syracuse all lose,” Mulkey said. “I got in that locker room, and I think I exploded on them before the game started.”

The pregame video voices the Lady Bears’ frustration with the end of last season, an Elite Eight loss to rival Texas A&M who went on to win the championship.

This season, Baylor is taking care of unfinished business.

“I said that you better defend and you better rebound,” Mulkey said before the Kansas State game Saturday.

On the season, the Lady Bears have done just that.

Baylor leads the Big 12 conference in the rebounding margin, averaging 14.1 more than its opponent.

This is helped by the offense crashing the boards and the defense watching its man instead of the ball, as the shot is fired toward the hoop.

Defensively, the Lady Bears are the best in the nation at shutting down opponents, holding them to under 50 percent from the floor, since March 25, 2006.

This leads to transition scoring, where Baylor leads the conference in scoring defense with 51.6 points per game.

On the offensive side of the court, Baylor averages a scoring margin of 30.1 points per game.

The Lady Bears are No. 3 in the country in scoring offense with an average of 82 points a game.

Keep in mind, the Lady Bears have the top RPI in the nation.

How does Baylor keep playing hard when its opponent is so far behind?

“You have to have a ‘you can’t stop me’ mentality,” Griner said.

Griner is not the only one in the green and gold with this mindset.

After watching a single Baylor game, you will notice that the offense is not clinging to post entry for Griner.

Every player on the court for Baylor is capable of creating offense and scoring.

“They seemed more composed and they make up for mistakes athletically at least today,” Kansas State head coach Deb Patterson said. “They made up for mistakes at a higher level than they did a year ago as a team. Honestly, I didn’t feel as though they relied on Griner as much. They were much more comfortable distributing the ball, having some balance, and then just killing you for five possessions in a row.”

With depth and confidence, Baylor does not look to peak now, but to improve for the Final Four in Denver, Colo.

“Just keep winning,” Mulkey said. “Just keep piling up wins and see how much better we can get.”