By Parmida Schahhosseini
The path for a consecutive National Title begins at 6:30 p.m. Sunday as the No. 1 Baylor Lady Bears play No. 16 Prairie View A&M Lady Panthers in the Ferrell Center in the first game of the NCAA Tournament.
“We’re ready. We’re ready to play,” head coach Kim Mulkey said. “We’re not used to sitting this long period of time. I thought we had an outstanding practice, inter-squad scrimmage Saturday.”
Baylor received a No. 1 seed for the third consecutive year and the overall No. 1 seed in back-to-back years. Baylor is led by senior post Brittney Griner and junior guard Odyssey Sims, who were named to the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-Region Team. Griner and Sims also received this honor last year.
Griner leads the nation in shooting percentage at 60.4 percent and leads Baylor in scoring at 23.6 points. She also averages nine rebounds and 4.2 blocks per game. Sims averages 12.7 points and 5.7 assists per game. She ranks second in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.7.
Baylor also ranks first in the nation in assists per game at 21.8. The Lady Bear’s smart guard play is what allows for success on both ends of the court.
Senior guard Jordan Madden has been tasked with guarding the best player from the opposing team this season. However, Madden is having her best season offensively, shooting 52.7 percent from the field and making clutch 3-point shots when Baylor needs them most.
Prairie View A&M is 17-14 on the year, but in the NCAA Tournament, anything can happen.
“We’re going to take it one game at a time and not overlook anyone,” Sims said. “No matter what seed they are, we can get beat at any time and we have to stay focused and continue to push each other throughout these six games.”
Senior guard Latia Williams leads the Lady Panthers in both scoring and rebounding at 13.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Senior guard Kiara Etienne averages 11.3 points per game. Prairie View A&M scores an average of 59.8 points per game and give up 57.8 for a scoring margin of +2.1. They also average 35.3 rebounds and 12.6 assists per game.
Keeping up with the Lady Bears is a tough task. Not only are they the No. 3 offense in the nation, but they also share the ball.
“Throughout the season I’ve been growing actually, from watching [Sims] play and playing with her and against her,” freshman guard Niya Johnson said. “Overall, I’m getting better and better by just watching her and she’s just giving me strategies on the defensive side because she’s the best defensive player in the nation.”