Eyes still on the prize for the Lady Bears

ABOVE THE REST Baylor senior forward Nina Davis goes for a layup against the Oklahoma Sooners on Jan. 29 in Waco. The Lady Bears won the game 92-58. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

By Nathan Keil | Sports Writer

The Baylor Lady Bears took a step back in their quest for another Big 12 regular season championship Monday night when they were stunned at home by Texas 85-79 in front of a crowd of 7,054 at the Ferrell Center.

The loss snapped Baylor’s 21-game winning streak this season, its 51-game winning streak at the Ferrell Center and a 14-game winning streak over the Longhorns.

All three streaks came crashing down on Monday, as the Longhorns shot 52 percent from the field and four scored in double figures.

However, Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said that records and streaks are only temporary and do not define the Lady Bears.

“I don’t know if it stings these kids. I don’t know if anything stings kids. I didn’t see a tear shed in that locker room,” Mulkey said. “We’ve got to move on. Streaks don’t last forever. It’s just part of the nature of athletics.”

The loss was a hard one to swallow, but the hope for another Big 12 regular season championship did not dwindle away as the clock ran out at the Ferrell Center on Monday. The belief in the team and its capabilities did not diminish as the Lady Bears came out on the wrong side of the scoreboard. Instead, the opportunity to claim another title is in their grasp, and according to Mulkey, it’s just a little harder now.

“We can still tie them and win the conference if they win out and go there or something,” Mulkey said. “But there are five more big games to play. We are not out of it. It is a little tougher now. We’ve got three on the road and two at home. It will either be a wakeup call for some of them or some of them will go in a shell and do like they did tonight.”

The Lady Bears have a road contest with TCU and a home game against Oklahoma State before they make the trip to Austin to take on the Longhorns again on Feb. 20. Following the rematch with Texas, the Lady Bears host Texas Tech and take on Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., to end the regular season.

Texas still has road games against Oklahoma and Kansas State on its schedule, as well as a trip to take on No. 5 Florida State before hosting Baylor and Iowa State.

For Baylor to give itself a chance to claim a share of the Big 12 title, Mulkey will need help from her seniors, guards Alexis Jones and Alexis Prince and forward Nina Davis.

Both Jones and Davis were uncharacteristically quiet in the first half on Monday, as neither of them scored and were zero for six from the floor. In the second 20 minutes, when Baylor got itself back in the game, Jones and Davis were instrumental in the effort. Jones scored 19 points, 10 in the final quarter and Davis chipped in with eight points. Prince finished with 14 points but scored 12 of them in the first half.

Jones said that moving forward, her and Davis have to play better, starting from the opening tipoff.

“I’m disappointed, upset and mad,” Jones said. “But me and Nina just need to figure it out. We’re seniors, and we need to figure out these last couple of games.”

If both Baylor and Texas win out but the Lady Bears win in Austin, each will claim a share of the Big 12 championship. Baylor can claim an outright championship if it can knock off the Longhorns and hope Texas stumbles somewhere else along the way.

The uphill battle toward the Big 12 title begins Sunday in Fort Worth against TCU.

For Mulkey and the Lady Bears, the effort has to start from the get go, and they have to play with a sense of urgency the entire game.

“You’ve got to come out of the gates ready to play with focus, with energy, with intensity, and they did,” Mulkey said. “Good teams come out of the gates ready to play, and I’ve been preaching that for weeks now. We scored [on Monday] because we started playing with a sense of urgency.”

Baylor beat TCU 77-54 at the Ferrell Center back on Jan. 11. Tipoff is set for 3 p.m. Sunday. The game will air on ESPN2.