You don’t get to the Women’s Final Four by accident. The Lady Bears know this better than most after the heartbreak they have suffered over the last few years.
The Lady Bears were quick to establish themselves as the most dominating team in women’s college basketball.
The team beat UCONN by 11 points on January 3, snapping the Huskies’ regular season win streak of 126 games – marking the first time the Lady Bears defeated them.
A few weeks later, the Lady Bears ranked #1 in AP for the first time since March 2013. The program received well-deserved recognition, including the top assist to turnover ratio in the country.
“I think you start with Chloe Jackson and her unselfishness,” says Lady Bears Head Coach Kim Mulkey. “Chloe can score the ball and does score for us. Chloe has a knack to get everybody else involved. We preach it all the time, that I’m going to take you out of the game if you turn the ball over and you don’t play defense.”
“I would say it’s been a dream come true. Just like, I couldn’t have written a better story, honestly. Came here, wanted to win, to get to a Final Four,” says Senior Point Guard Chloe Jackson.
The Lady Bears depth became very apparent in the very beginning of February. Starting Guard Juicy Landrum was nursing a minor injury, and Moon Ursin picked up the slack by scoring 12 points against Texas Tech and 20 against the Longhorns.
“Those kids came to Baylor to experience this. To win Big 12 Championships. They knew what was in front of them,” Mulkey says.
Freshman Nalyssa Smith’s role started to emerge as the first player coming off the bench. Smith provided a major asset to the boards, as she has 185 total rebounds this season – which is the third best on the team. All five freshman have shown the future of the program is very bright.
“Their unselfishness of watching them work every day, beat each other in practice, cheer each other on in the game, it’s a lost form of team chemistry right now, with all the transfer stuff you have going on. Because it’s all about the welfare of the student-athlete this day and time,” Mulkey says. “To have 12 of them on the team that pull for each other, you don’t have to sit there and worry about playing time. All that stuff, man, that makes it fun.”
The Lady Bears ran the table for the fourth time in school history, claiming their 20th Big 12 championship and tenth conference tournament title. Junior Forward Lauren Cox was named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year for the second straight season.
“She [Cox] can defend any position on the floor if I asked her to. That kid can play any position on the court. She can defend any position on the court. She alters shots. She has a coach’s mentality and understands and can see things happen before they happen. She understands the game probably as good as any player that I have ever coached,” Mulkey says.
“She’s just trying to keep us focused. Our goal going together to Tampa she says we can’t be content with just getting here. We have to stay focused if we want to make it all the way,” Cox says.
If you’re wondering where you can catch the game in Waco, FOX44 is teaming up with the Dancing Bear Pub to hold a watch party on Friday. The doors will open at 2:00 p.m. at 1117 Speight Avenue, and they are expanding their happy hour specials during the game.