By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer
The No. 6 Lady Bears fell four spots after falling short for the first time this season in a 74-59 loss to South Carolina Saturday.
Along with the defeat came two snapped streaks — that of 36 consecutive wins, and holding opponents below 50% from the floor in 53 games. Yet, there’s hope to extend one more streak as Baylor hosts Georgia Wednesday night.
The Lady Bears have the opportunity to notch their 45th consecutive victory at home, but that’ll only come by going back to the two things that make Baylor women’s basketball who they are head coach Kim Mulkey said — rebounding and guarding.
“When you play in the SEC, you’re well schooled,” Mulkey said. “Every game you play in the SEC is pretty much tough. So we will see how we’re going to respond. I can tell you I expect us to respond in a way that’s one better on the boards and two would guard people better.”
The loss of the team’s 6’4 giant Lauren Cox has hit the team hard. From rebounding to leadership, the Lady Bears understand the importance to adapt, especially coming off their first loss.
“We learned a lot about some things that I guess we took for granted,” transfer graduate guard Te’a Cooper said. “So we’re just capitalizing on that right now, without Lauren. Everyone’s role has changed, so it’s harder, [the team] gets to experience it. So once you do come back, they’re gonna be even better.”
The 7-1 Lady Bears ranked in the top 10 nationally in 12 different categories through Dec. 1, including rebound margin (14.3). Against South Carolina however, Baylor fell short 43-29 rebounding, and allowed its opponents to shoot .528 from the field. In comparison through the 2018-19 season, Baylor’s defensive field goal percentage average was .318 — No. 1 in the nation for the third consecutive year.
Struggling offensively in their last matchup as well (.348 from the field), Mulkey’s team knows it has to take the loss as a learning opportunity and look forward.
“We learned that we got to finish games off, like we got to play until we see zero on the clock,” sophomore post NaLyssa Smith said. “We learned that we actually got to like start playing basketball now. […] We need to learn how to operate without [Cox].”
Learning to be without their dominant post includes finding a source of leadership on the court.
“We can’t sit there and just say ‘gosh, hurry up and get well Lauren, get better!’ We got to get better,” Mulkey said. “If you look on the floor, other than Juicy [Landrum] and Didi [Richards], everybody’s new and in a new role, and we had no calmness out there. We had no leader. It was a two point game in the fourth quarter with about 5:50 to go. […] We kind of, I don’t want to say lost our composure, but we had no leader at that moment to say we’re okay. Other than me saying it in timeouts.”
Now Baylor has to focus on the first of its last three December games. The 6-2 Bulldogs come in shooting at a .425 average with 67.4 points. Aside from falling short last week, the Lady Bears typically average .526 from the field and 87.8 points, led by senior Juicy Landrum with 238 on the season.
Baylor will have the chance to claim a home victory at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Ferrell Center.