By Jeffrey Swindoll
In the dawn of a new era for Baylor women’s basketball, the No. 8 Lady Bears downed Midwestern State University 99-56 in an exhibition game at the Ferrell Center Tuesday night. For many newcomers to the team, the game was a chance to get valuable playing time before the regular season. For head coach Kim Mulkey, it was an opportunity to test her players in different spots on the floor.
Right from the get-go, the Lady Bears controlled the game against their NCAA Division II opponent Tuesday night. Junior guard Niya Johnson fit right into her role from last season, commanding the tempo of Baylor’s offense. Whether in transition, off an inbounds pass or a fast break, Johnson was the player the Lady Bears looked to begin each attack. Johnson totaled 11 points and 15 assists against the Mustangs.
“I was just going with flow and getting my teammates involved,” Johnson said. “I was very proud of the way we produced out there and played aggressive.”
Sophomore guard Alexis Prince played her first game since the early portion of the 2013-14 season for the Lady Bears. Johnson and Prince entered the Lady Bears program together in their freshman year and were reunited on the court, playing side-by-side as the starting guards for Baylor.
“It felt good [to play again],” Prince said. “I’ve just been waiting for this day for like a whole year. I feel good, like 100 percent. It was tough, but I never got down. I kept rehabbing, being positive. The trainers and rehab staff helped me get through it.”
Sophomore forward Nina Davis and sophomore guard Imani Wright sat out the full night for reasons Mulkey did not disclose on Tuesday.
“They know why they didn’t play,” Mulkey said.
In absence of Davis and Wright, as well as some injury issues with other players from last season, Mulkey played just eight players in the rotation Tuesday. Mulkey said her players had to play more than they probably are used to playing, but she was proud with how her team held up.
“I thought that we played hard, but I didn’t think we played all that intelligent in the first half,” Mulkey said. “We fouled too much. You’ve got to adjust, and we didn’t adjust. I appreciate that they played hard, and I want them to, but we’ve got to quit fouling. Obviously, you can’t put people at the foul line as early as we did.”
Sophomore post Khadijiah Cave led her team with 26 points and 18 rebounds. Mulkey said Cave’s been an outstanding rebound player since her freshman year, but is working on improving her abilities to finish plays at the basket.
Freshman guard Kristy Wallace, an international student from Australia, shined bright in her Lady Bears debut with 13 points and 5 assists, including a behind-the-back pass that thrilled the fans at the Ferrell Center Tuesday night. All five of Mulkey’s starters scored in double figures against the Mustangs.
All in all, Mulkey said she got everything she wanted out of Tuesday night’s exhibition game. The team has plenty of growing to do, but her players’ performance against Midwestern State is positive step to start the season.