By Michael Haag | Sports Editor
A year ago, Baylor women’s basketball hosted the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament as a two-seed. Despite losing in the second round to the University of South Dakota by a score of 61-47, that squad at least had the chance to play its first two tournament games from the comfort of the Ferrell Center.
And with this year’s seventh-seeded group headed to Storrs, Conn., to face off against 10th-seeded University of Alabama, it might actually be more favorable for the Bears (19-12) to be away from Waco.
Baylor went just 3-5 in home conference games this season, compared to a 6-3 mark on the road. Four of those six true road wins came against Associated Press Top 25 foes. However, all but one of those ranked opponents returned the favor by evening the series with wins in the Ferrell Center.
Junior guard Sarah Andrews said she and her teammates just don’t lock in as much when playing at home. Andrews said when the team is journeying, it’s able to hone in more on the task at hand.
“I think we feed off of not having that home crowd, and it’s less distractions as you say,” Andrews said. “We can’t look in the stands and see family as much but I think we feed off of not having that home court advantage and knowing that you have to be 15 points better on the road.”
Prior to the Big 12 Tournament, the Bears went 2-2 in neutral site games this season, but had a highlight, 75-70, win over then-No. 23 Villanova University in Estero, Fla. Since that loss to Baylor on Nov. 26, the Wildcats only lost four of their next 27 games and rose to No. 10 in the most recent AP Top 25 poll, released on March 6.
The Bears’ road and neutral site wins over ranked opponents is a big reason why the selection committee deemed them a No. 7 seed, contrary to projections that had the green and gold as an eight or nine-seed.
Junior guard Jana Van Gytenbeek chalked the success away from Waco up to the group’s attention to detail and focus.
“I think we do a really good job of preparing,” Gytenbeek said. “We know how important it is to get road dubs [wins]. Just have to be ready, and thanks to our coaches we are.”
In the final stretch of conference play, Baylor knocked off then-No. 12 University of Texas 63-54 in Austin on Feb. 27. At the time, it marked the Bears’ third-straight win following a four-game skid and the team looked to be rolling at the right time. But the door on any momentum going into the Big 12 Tournament was shut abruptly after the team came crashing back down to Earth on March 4 in the form of a 63-52 loss to West Virginia University on Senior Night.
And the team followed that final home game by tapping out in the quarterfinals of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship to Iowa State University, 74-63, in Kansas City, Mo.
Even though the team is coming off its third neutral site loss of the season, head coach Nicki Collen said she knows her squad has “played better on the road and on neutral floors than we have at home.”