Baylor women come long way since 1st NCAA game vs. Arkansas
WACO, Texas (AP) Coach Kim Mulkey and the Baylor Lady Bears have come a long way since their previous meeting against Arkansas.
That was 2001, at the end of Mulkey's first season and in Baylor's first NCAA Tournament game.
''We were bright-eyed and bushy-talked and excited to be there,'' Mulkey said Saturday.
While still excited, the NCAA Tournament has become a regular occurrence - and expectation - for the five-time defending Big 12 champion Lady Bears (31-3).
Baylor, the No. 2 seed in the Oklahoma City Regional, will try to get to the Sweet 16 for the seventh year in a row Sunday when it hosts No. 10 seed Arkansas (18-13).
''If what you did in the past still looks big to you today, then you haven't much today,'' said Mulkey, a two-time national champion at Baylor after also winning titles as a player and assistant coach at Louisiana Tech. ''You just go to work. This is what we do. This is our life. You go to the next opponent and get ready.''
Arkansas hasn't been past the second round since its 1998 Final Four team. The Razorbacks' next trip was in 2001, when they beat Baylor 68-59 in the opening round before losing to host Duke. They went again in 2002 and 2003, then not again until 2012 and now.
''This is invaluable for us. I think it is for every program, but especially in the first year,'' said new coach Jimmy Dykes, the former Razorback and ESPN analyst. ''This is a tremendous learning experience for us. It's a tremendous building step for us. ... I thought we handled that stage really well (Friday).''
The Razorbacks rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final 11 1/2 minutes of their NCAA opener to beat Northwestern 57-55.
Baylor won 77-36 over Southland Conference tournament champ Northwestern State, its 20th consecutive win at home. The Lady Bears' only first-round loss in 14 NCAA appearances was that game against Arkansas.
''We're going to push the ball. We're going to run,'' Mulkey said. ''They're going to have to get back in transition. We're not going to change what we do, and I'm sure they're not going to change what they do.''
Here are some other things to look for when the former Southwest Conference rivals meet for the first time since the 2001 NCAA Tournament:
NOT ACTING TIRED: Arkansas has only nine players on its roster, and four starters average more than 32 minutes a game. Melissa Wolff and Calli Berna played all 40 minutes in the first-round game, and Jessica Jackson played 38 minutes. No Baylor starter played more than 23 minutes Friday. ''I tell them all the time, you can be tired, don't act tired,'' Dykes said. ''They're tired, I can guarantee you that. ... We're not going to let it affect how we play the game.''
GUARDING NINA: Dykes said all five Baylor starters present matchup problems, and that he would talk to his players about who they think they should guard. When asked about Baylor's Nina Davis, post Jhasmin Bowen said she told Dykes she wanted to guard the Big 12 player of the year. ''I just can't wait to see what it brings,'' Bowen said. Dykes quickly said interjected that no decisions had been on who'd be covering who.
WOOOOOOOO, PIG, SIC `EM: Baylor assistant coach and Arkansas native Sytia Messer was the West Regional MVP on the Razorbacks' Final Four team in 1998. Mulkey called Messer to the podium and had her show how she's teaching the hog call to the Lady Bears. After raising her hands, Messer called out ''Woooooooooo!'' But instead of finishing the standard Razorbacks chant of ''Pig! Sooie!,'' she shouted ''Sic `Em!'' for Baylor and flashed the ''Bear Claw'' hand signal.
COMMON OPPONENTS: Both Arkansas and Baylor played Kentucky, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Northwestern State this season. Baylor beat Northwestern State 77-36 on Friday, and Arkansas beat the Lady Demons 78-30 in November. The Razorbacks beat Big 12 Oklahoma, a team Baylor split two games against. Baylor beat Ole Miss, which Arkansas split two games against in SEC play. Both lost to Kentucky.