By Jeffrey Swindoll
After posting a successful 3-0 record last week, Baylor women’s basketball will look to continue its successful start to non-conference play against UT-Pan American at 7 p.m. today at the Ferrell Center.
UTPA head coach Larry Tidwell is entering his second season as head coach of the Broncs. Tidwell previously served as an assistant coach for the Lady Bears in 1992-98. After six season with Lamar University, Tidwell started calling the shots for the Broncs. Since then he has garnered a 20-19 record overall and a 6-3 record this season. UTPA’s three losses were all against top-25 teams.
“[Tidwell] always has his team prepared,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “They’re playing extremely hard, they’re athletic, they’re going to press you, they’re going to play a 2-3 zone. They’ve played a schedule that’s going to help them win the WAC, and we’re going to have our hands full [tonight].”
Mulkey said her team’s lineup and strategies this season are harder to determine this season because of the versatility of her team. The team’s strengths and weakness are much less obvious than in previous seasons.
The Lady Bears’ out-of-conference schedule, like any other season, allows Mulkey the chance to experiment the way she wants to game plan her team. Currently under the Mulkey microscope are some Baylor’s young talents.
Freshman forward Dekeiya Cohen was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Week on Monday. Cohen came off the bench for the Lady Bears’ in all three of their games in the Basketball Travelers Classic. Her team-leading 16 points per game average .732 field percentage in that three-game span was a revelation for Mulkey, who said she learned a lot about Cohen in the BTC from the weekend.
“[Cohen] can just score,” Mulkey said. “She’s a presence in there. I’ve got to get her on the floor more and figure out a rotation with her in the lineup some. Again, it has nothing to do with starting. It’s all about being in the rotation.”
Aside from Cohen breakthrough over the weekend, Mulkey got a deeper insight on two of her sophomores this season. Sophomore guard Imani Wright and Khadijah Cave are averaging double-digit scoring this season.
Cave showed flashes of brilliance for the Lady Bears last season as a freshman, coming up big for Baylor in the Big 12 tournament in Oklahoma City, Okla. and the NCAA tournament. However, she has been handed third fiddle to senior post Sune Agbuke and junior post Kristina Higgins ahead of her on the depth chart. With Agbuke on an injury-ridden knee, Cave is in position to make a much bigger impact on games now.
“This year I’m feeling more comfortable on the court,” Cave said. “And I’m trying to let the game come to me and not force it so much this year. I know I have the chance to play, and I’m getting the opportunity. I know I have what it takes, so I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the team.”
Sophomore forward Nina Davis continues to be a dominant force for the Lady Bears. She is perhaps Mulkey’s best player and one of the top players in the country at the moment. Davis is averaging 16.4 points per game, just behind Cave’s 16.6. Davis also contributes as one of the team’s best rebounders. Davis leads the team with 8.4 rebounds per game, followed by Cave (7.4), Higgins (6.8) and Cohen (6.0).
Freshman guard Kristy Wallace, who has started for the Lady Bears since the beginning of the season, will miss the next five games as she is training with the under 19 Australian women’s basketball national team for the upcoming 2015 FIBA Under 19 World Championship. In Wallace’s absence, Wright is listed as a probable starter.