By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer
Both the defending national champion Baylor women’s basketball season and the Baylor men’s basketball season came to an abrupt end last week when the NCAA announced that the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be canceled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Shortly before that announcement, the Big 12 had canceled the Big 12 basketball tournaments for the same reason.
Even though their year ended before the most important games, Baylor still had seasons to celebrate. The Lady Bears finished with a 28-2 record, going 17-1 in the conference and capturing their 10th straight Big 12 championship.
The men’s team finished with a 26-4 record, went 15-3 in the conference, and became the first team not named Kansas to win 15 games in the Big 12. Baylor was No. 1 in the country for five straight weeks and has been ranked in the top five for the majority of the season. The Bears finished the year ranked at No. 4, the highest end-of-season ranking in program history.
Looking back at this terrific year, here are the top ten games from Baylor basketball this year:
1. Baylor earns first win at Allen Fieldhouse
Baylor entered their Jan. 11 tilt with the Kansas Jayhawks ranked No. 4 in the country and looking to make a statement to the college basketball world. With their double-digit 67-55 victory over Kansas, the Bears provided more than just a statement.
They earned their first ever road-victory over the Jayhawks, which was also their first ranked road-win of the season, and stamped Baylor’s name as a true contender for the national championship.
Sophomore guard Jared Butler had a game-leading 22 points for Baylor, but the biggest story was on defense. The Bears held Kansas to a season-low 39% in field-goal shooting and held star center Udoka Azubuike to just six points.
2. Baylor beats No. 1 UConn for the second straight season
In January the Lady Bears, who were ranked number No. 6 at the time, traveled to Connecticut and took on the top-ranked Huskies. Baylor pulled away in the fourth quarter, knocked off UConn 74-58, and earned its first marquee win of the season.
With their victory, the Lady Bears became the first team since 2013 to drop the Huskies on their home floor. The win showed that Baylor, who jumped to No. 2 in the subsequent AP poll rankings, was a true threat to defend its crown.
3. Lady Bears clinch Big 12 championship with win at West Virginia
On Feb. 24, with a 64-39 win over the West Virginia Mountaineers, in Morgantown, the Lady Bears clinched at least a share of their 10th straight Big 12 conference championship. Just a few days later, after a TCU loss, Baylor would become the sole owner of this year’s Big 12 title.
The Lady Bears earned the victory on the back of their defense, which was an apt reflection of the season. The anchor of Baylor’s game was its lockdown defense, as the team finished No. 2 in the country, allowing just 51.6 points per game.
4. Kim Mulkey earns historic career win number 600
In mid-February, with a victory over Texas Tech, head coach Kim Mulkey earned her 600th career win as Baylor’s head coach. She became the fastest head coach to reach the milestone in NCAA history, for either men’s or women’s basketball.
The team celebrated her accomplishment during their next home game with a tribute video and celebration. Mulkey’s family, the current team, several former Lady Bears and Baylor athletic director Mack Rhoades each presented her with gifts.
The 600-win mark became another notch on her belt in what has become an astonishing career. Mulkey was named a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year. The inductees, who were supposed to be announced at the now-canceled men’s Final Four, will be named later this year.
5. Bears destroy West Virginia, tie record win-streak
On Feb. 15, Baylor welcomed West Virginia, who was ranked No. 14 at the time, into the Ferrell Center. The Bears’ 70-59 victory looked more competitive than the game itself, as Baylor led by around 30 points for much of the game.
With the win, Baylor extended its win streak to 22 straight games and tied the record for most consecutive wins by a Big 12 team.
6. Baylor claims Big 12 win-streak record
Three days after the victory over West Virginia, Baylor strolled into Norman, Okla. to take on the Oklahoma Sooners. Butler once again led the team in scoring, with 22 points, and carried the Bears to a 65-54 victory.
Baylor made history with its 23rd straight win, becoming the sole owner of the Big 12 consecutive wins record. This was arguably the pinnacle of the team’s season.
7. Senior night victory over Texas Tech
The Bears entered their senior night game coming off two losses in their last three games. Needing a win over Texas Tech in order to set their season back on track, Baylor was in a tough battle with the Red Raiders, who were ranked No. 22.
The score at halftime was 30-30. The score after regulation was 60-60. Finally, in overtime, Baylor was able to pull out a 71- 68 win. Senior guard Devonte Bandoo led the team in scoring with 18 points, adding four assists. Senior forward Freddie Gillespie played tough defense inside and provided 10 rebounds.
8. Juicy Landrum three-point explosion
Back in December, during an 111-43, blowout victory over Arkansas State, starting guard Juicy Landrum did something completely unprecedented. After coming into the game averaging just 2.9 attempts from beyond the arc, Landrum caught fire and connected on 14 threes.
Her explosion from three-point range set an NCAA women’s record for most three-pointers made in a game.
9. Baylor knocks off Texas on Senior Night
The Lady Bears had four seniors on the roster this season in Juicy Landrum, Lauren Cox, grad transfer Te’A Cooper and grad transfer Erin DeGrate. It is possible that one or more of them come back next year due to the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility to winter and spring-sport athletes.
However, each senior scored and contributed to a 69-53 win over Texas in what was supposed to be their final regular season home game. Cooper led the team with 20 points, while Cox had a double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Landrum had six points and DeGrate had four.
10. Baylor claims first big victory over Villanova
Baylor’s first big-name win of the season came against Villanova in November. The Wildcats were ranked No. 17 at the time and finished the season ranked No. 11 in the country.
At that point, the Bears were 4-1 on the season with their only Power 5 game being a loss to the University of Washington. But Baylor knocked off Villanova 87-78 and showed that it would be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the season.