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Lady Bears @ UT, 8 pm CT, Previews and Game Thread

Lady Bears Battle the Texas Longhorns tonight in Austin for the Big XII Championship Title.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Baylor at Iowa State Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Coupled with Saturday's 89-67 win over Oklahoma State, the Lady Bears moved into a tie with eighth-ranked Texas (21-5, 14-1) atop the Big 12 standings when the Sooners knocked off the Longhorns, 74-73.

Now, the two conference leaders will square off at 8 p.m. Monday at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin, in a game that will be televised by ESPN2. (Live audio is also available on the Baylor Sports Network, IMG College and ESPN 1660 AM in Waco, Texas. Rick May (play-by-play) and Lori Fogelman (analyst) are on the call.)

"You've got three games left, and all three are extremely important if you want to win a conference championship," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.

But none more important than Monday's game against Texas, which had lost 14 in a row in this series before pulling out an 85-79 win two weeks ago in Waco. Baylor has won six in a row in Austin since falling 61-50 on Jan. 31, 2010.

The Lady Bears came into that first meeting with the nation's best field goal percentage defense, but the Longhorns were a lights-out 73.3 percent in the second quarter and 51.6 percent for the game (33-of-64). It was just the third time in Baylor's last 389 games that an opponent had shot over 50 percent.

"I didn't think we played very good team defense," Mulkey said. "Granted, they made some great shots. But, you can't beat good teams if you don't have great team defense, and our help-side defense wasn't great."

Sophomore post Kalani Brown, who scored a game-high 24 points against the Longhorns, said the Lady Bears have to "come out with that fire and match their intensity."

"I feel like we let them get us on our heels. And by the time we fought back, it was just too late," said Brown, who is averaging 14.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. "We've got to come out fighting, come out swinging. Everybody's got to be hyped, everybody's got to be ready to play."

Junior point guard Brooke McCarty led the Longhorns with 22 points in that first matchup and is averaging a team-high 14.5 points and 3.7 assists. Junior guard Ariel Atkins pumped in 20 against the Lady Bears and is averaging 13.5 points, while 6-3 freshman forward Joyner Holmes (12.4 ppg, 8.3 rebounds) and 6-5 senior center Kelsey Lang (9.9 ppg, 8.2 rebounds) provide an imposing front line.

Playing Texas for the second time in two weeks, 5-11 senior forward Nina Davis said "it helps to know that the wound is still there."

"It hasn't had much time to heal, not that it would heal," said Davis, who is averaging 12.2 points and 5.5 rebounds after a 23-point outing against Oklahoma State. "We kind of let them come out and hit us with the first punch and we never fought back until the second half. We just want to come this time and hit them first and just never want to slow down. We have to make the aggressive plays, stop them in transition and get back to playing our ball."

Davis had arguably her best game of the year in Saturday's home-court win against OSU. She was 10-of-15 from the floor and recorded only her second double-double of the season with 23 points and 10 rebounds.

"That's Nina at her best," Mulkey said. "Nina in the open floor, Niya (Johnson) looked for her a lot and could get her the ball ahead of the pick. Niya not being here and being able to give that to her in the open floor has taken away some of her scoring.

Texas has always been judged by rings and banners. The Longhorns enjoyed plenty of milestones in the old Southwest Conference but the Big 12 cupboard is nearly bare. Most of the conference hardware resides in Waco.

Billed as Big Monday by ESPN, no one will deny that Baylor-Texas at the Erwin Center is the most important game of the regular season ... for both teams.

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  • The long wining streak for the No. 8-ranked Texas Longhorns women’s basketball team came to an end over the weekend, but head coach Karen Aston’s team will have a chance to recover against the No. 4-ranked Baylor Bears on Big Monday. From Burnt Orange Nation.

ESPN2 will air the match up, which will tip at 8 p.m. CT at the Frank Erwin Center.

Both teams are 14-1 in conference play, with the ‘Horns dealing the Bears the program’s only defeat by a Big 12 opponent this year, while Texas suffered a last-second defeat against Oklahoma.

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Sure, Texas hit some contested shots, some buckets where “you just pat them on their butt and say, ‘Nice shot,’” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. But Baylor knows it endured plenty of defensive lapses in that 85-79 Lady Longhorn win in Waco on Feb. 6.

“We’ve just got to come out with that fire and match their intensity,” Baylor post Kalani Brown said. “They had us on our heels. I feel like we let them get us on our heels. And by the time we fought back, it was just too late. So, we’ve just got to come out fighting, come out swinging. Everybody’s got to be hyped, everybody’s got to be ready to play.”

Monday’s rematch not only offers a chance at redemption, but it’s again a battle for sole possession of first place in the Big 12. That’s because No. 8 Texas stubbed its toe on Saturday, seeing a 19-game losing streak come to an end with a 74-73 loss at Oklahoma.

So if Baylor can return the favor and beat the Lady Longhorns on their home floor, the Lady Bears will put themselves in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 championship.

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The Lady Bears (25-2, 14-1) move into a tie atop the Big 12 standings with Texas ahead of Monday night’s showdown in Austin.

The Cowgirls (14-12, 4-11) kept it close in the first half but were unable to overcome the Baylor front court duo of Brown and Davis.

Davis said she felt that she played the way her team needed her to.

“I definitely felt like I was in a rhythm out there,” Davis said. “I just felt like I needed to be the spark that my team needs.”

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