If the scorelines from their first games are any indication, Baylor is ready to get right back to where they were last year as they prepare for the season’s first real test against Arizona State on Sunday evening.
For the second season in a row, Baylor has started the season with four wins (two in exhibition games) where they’ve scored 100 points or more, and all seems to be going according to plan for a team seeking a second consecutive undefeated Big 12 outing.
But one uncomfortable similarity to last season remains, and it’s one that Baylor will want to shake off in just as dominating fashion: the first time they played a ranked team last season — No. 8 UCLA — they lost. And while they were dealing with the absence of head coach Kim Mulkey and forward Lauren Cox, it was a game that Baylor probably should have won.
Of course, rankings are more of a formality this early on, a representation of last season’s success combined with the expectations of the new season. But the fact remains that last year’s Baylor Lady Bears team lost to a lower-ranked team and effectively traded places with them by the time the next poll was released. This season, they’ve run the table in four tune-up games, but what’s next for them?
The good thing for Baylor is that, as usual, they’ve got a lot of solid talent to rely on this season. Senior center Kalani Brown returns as the newly-crowned Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, and she’s averaging 18 points per game in the two games that have counted so far this season. Freshman forward NaLyssa Smith — named Preseason Big 12 Co-Freshman of the Year — has also been living up to expectations so far in this young season, scoring in double figures in every game so far, including an early career-high 21 points against St. Francis University in Baylor’s last game. And seven players scored in double figures in their season opener against Nicholls State, suggestive of the Bears’ ability to step up in case Brown or Smith has an off night.
Baylor has everything they need to put this game away and look forward to the rest of their tough preseason, notably matchups this winter at South Carolina, at Stanford and against UConn at home. But in order to show they’re ready for that kind of competition, they’ll have to hold their own in enemy territory in a game where, all things considered, they have a distinct advantage.
Bears in action
No. 4 Baylor Bears at No. 23 Arizona State Sun Devils
When: Sunday, Nov. 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Bee Hółdzil Fighting Scouts Events Center, Fort Defiance, AZ
How to watch: ESPN2
Notes: “Working in conjunction with ASU’s Office of American Indian Initiatives, ‘Showdown on the Rez’ will take place on Veterans Day weekend and serve as a celebration of Native American Heritage Month and also provide a platform to recognize and honor Native Americans who served in the armed forces.” (thesundevils.com)
Elsewhere in the Big 12:
- No. 11 Texas beat Duquesne on Thursday, 78-41. Lashann Higgs led all scorers with 20 points, while Jatarie White had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Next up, the Longhorns visit North Texas on Monday, Nov. 12 (ESPN+).
- Three Big 12 players made the Wooden Award preseason top 30, announced Wednesday: Kalani Brown, Lauren Cox (both of Baylor) and Bridget Carleton (Iowa State).
- The Big 12 is undefeated in this young season, with the closest game so far being Oklahoma State’s two-point victory over Arkansas State on Friday. Meanwhile, Baylor’s 61-point win over Nicholls State is the largest margin of victory in the conference so far, though Iowa State’s 60-point win over Niagara is a notable second.