Lady Bears face TCU in small Ft. Worth arena

By Jeffrey Swindoll
Sports Writer

The No. 3 Lady Bears remain the top dogs in conference play after extending their undefeated record with a win 68-46 win over Kansas State on Saturday. TCU (12-6, 4-3) has a shot at knocking Baylor (18-1, 7-0) off the trail to another Big 12 title at 7 p.m. tonight at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Fort Worth.

Freshman guard Kristy Wallace shot 1-for-7 from three and sophomore forward Nina Davis scored just 9 points, but the Lady Bears still dominated. Junior guard Alexis Prince and Sune Agbuke stepped up to lead the Lady Bears to victory. Prince scored 18 points and Agbuke had four of the team’s eight blocks.

“In the end, they just whipped us on the glass, even when we got a stop after the first shot, the 16 offensive rebounds just ended up wearing on us,” Kansas State head coach Jeff Mittie said. “We got them to miss enough, that was the one thing we got to at least be in the game, but in the end the second chances really hurt us.”

Mulkey was proud of her team for the win against Kansas State, but was blunt in her comments about the team’s slow start and the “dead” atmosphere at the Ferrell Center on Saturday. Her sentiments regarding the energy of Saturday’s were mutual with her players as well.

“I thought we started off pretty slow, which we should change that in the future,” junior guard Niya Johnson said. “[In the] second half we talked to each other and we knew that we had to pick it up from here.”

Saturday’s game had an 11 a.m. tip-off time. Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey considered that as a cause for the snoozy crowd on Saturday. Usually the Lady Bears have a crowd that is loud and proud, but that may not be the case tonight.

The Lady Bears have one of the most consistent fan bases in women’s college basketball. Their average attendance ranks among the highest in the nation. However, due to TCU’s basketball arena undergoing renovations, the No. 3 Lady Bears (18-1, 7-0) have only been allowed 100 away tickets for their game at 7 p.m. tonight in Fort Worth.

Mulkey, rather befuddled by the allotment of tickets for the Baylor fan base, said the smallness of the arena may end up being a large factor tonight.

“I’m concerned about the arena we’re playing in,” Mulkey said. “We’re only going to get about 100 tickets. I don’t know if I’ve ever gone somewhere and been told that’s about all the fans you’re allowed to go in a gym. It makes you think it’s a small arena which would be an advantage for TCU.”

As it has been stated over and over again, the Lady Bears are a balanced team. When Mulkey’s squad comes up against an unbalanced team, it usually spells out “W-I-N” for the Lady Bears, but that is not the type of team the Lady Bears are facing tonight in Fort Worth. TCU’s playing style is unlike anything Baylor has seen this season.

“When I saw them on film, obviously with a new coach, they’re a totally different style. They’re more a team that plays five guards. They press you. They push it up the floor. Every one of them [is] looking to score, and it’ll be a tough matchup defensively just because it’s five guards.”

In conference play alone, the Horned Frogs’ attack features three players averaging double-figures in points. Four of TCU’s five starters can shoot the three ball and they collectively make about 45 percent of their field goals.

“They are playing with a lot, a lot of excitement and energy which you do a lot of times when you have a new coach,” Mulkey said. “It’s like a new season and an opportunity for everyone to impress their coach.”

Mulkey was critical of her team and the Baylor fan base for being lackadaisical after a somewhat subdued environment at the Ferrell Center for the Lady Bears’ win over Kansas State on Saturday. She reminded her fans not to take anything for granted, even in games Baylor is heavily favored to win.

With the tiny arena, very limited fan support and an unorthodox playing style from TCU, this game may be the perfect storm to snap Baylor’s 17-game winning streak and perfect record in conference. The Lady Bears have been cruising for a while now, but tonight’s game may expose the Lady Bears as ripe for the picking.