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Baylor Women’s Basketball Catch Up

It is an honor to be writing again for Our Daily Bears. Ten years later and I have really come full circle.

Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is Andrew Miner and I will be assisting in the coverage of Baylor Women’s Basketball for the 2021-22 season.

What is your relation to Baylor?

I have been around and covered Baylor athletics in some form for the past decade and first contributed to ODB prior to the 2014 football season. I profiled Johnny Jefferson and others for ODB before reporting for 247 Sports on Baylor beginning in 2017; I also have a newsletter where I cover Baylor and beyond—most recently the Baylor/Villanova massacre.

I graduated from Baylor in 2015, and during my time I was on the Lady Bears’ Dream Team (scout team) and helped oversee the mens and women’s student section merger as President of the Bear Pit.

I love supporting Baylor and expressing that creatively through ‘Miner Minute’ videos, ‘We Are Going To Win’ shirts and interesting and thought provoking (hopefully) writing.

Baylor Women’s Basketball

The Bears are off to a 9-1 start this year. Let’s catch you up on the recent happenings since there has been so much going on in the Baylor athletics department.

Mulkey’s Departure

In case you were living under a rock last May or still drinking Gonzaga’s Champagne from the men’s championship victory, the legendary coach Kim Mulkey left to take the coaching job at LSU due to a) wanting to return to her home state where she grew up and played in college and b) creative differences with the Baylor administration. There have been many good stories documenting these reasons in depth which we do not need to rehash here, however, I do not think anybody was satisfied with how the change transpired.

A New Era

So it is the dawn of a new era in Baylor women’s basketball who not only lost their Hall of Fame coach but also three tremendous seniors in Didi Richards, DiJonai Carrington and Moon Ursin. The first two were drafted into the WNBA and Ursin transferred to Tulane, where she is already logging triple doubles. They also dropped the word ‘Lady’ from their nickname, which actually makes it a bit difficult to differentiate in reporting since both programs are so elite and—if I had to guess—was something that Mulkey and Baylor did not see eye to eye on.

Athletic Director Mack Rhoades only went out to make a ho-hum (potential) home run hire in former WNBA Atlanta Dream head coach Nikki Collen. Already, Collen has fully emersed herself in the Baylor culture. She has connected with her players, fans and other coaches exactly how you would want a coach to do. Collen has taken it a step further by attending games, leading chants at the football game, inviting the Bear Pit leadership team to a practice, sitting in the Bear Pit for the men’s game vs Villanova and conducting the Golden Wave Band during that game.

Recruiting

Collen has also been dynamite in recruiting as her four-player Class of 2022 is ranked No. 9 in the nation by ESPN Hoopgurlz and is highlighted by five-star guard Darianna Littlepage-Buggs from Edmond, Oklahoma (No. 17 overall). She is joined by No. 41 guard Bella Fontleroy from Springfield, Missouri; No. 62 forward Kyla Abraham from Carrollton, Virginia; and No. 2 JUCO guard Catarina Ferreira from San Paulo, Brazil.

With everything going right off the court, the important question is what has been going on the court?

Current Team

Collen is in a very fortunate position to retain All-American NaLyssa Smith, All-Big 12 center Queen Egbo, sharp shooter Sarah Andrews and glue girl Caitlin Bickle. The trio of Smith, Egbo and Bickle were apart of the 2019 class who won the national championship. There are four transfers in Ja’Mee Asberry (Oklahoma State), Jordan Lewis (Alabama), Kamaria McDaniel (Penn State) and Jaden Owens (UCLA). There are two freshmen on the team: Kendra Gillispie and Andrea Katramados.

It is the fourth straight season that Baylor has welcomed in a transfer point guard (three from the SEC): Chloe Jackson (‘19 from LSU), Te’a Cooper (‘20 from South Carolina), DiJonai Carrington (‘21 from Stanford) and now Lewis.

2021 Season Thus Far

The season began with an interesting 77-70 win over Texas State where the Bobcats made a run near the end to make the game closer. Baylor then beat UT Arlington and New Orleans by 27 and 29 points respectively. For comparison, No. 11 Texas beat New Orleans by 95 to begin the year. The Longhorns are 7-1 with wins on the road over defending champ No. 3 Stanford and No. 17 Texas A&M and their lone loss coming in overtime at No. 16 Tennessee. They host No. 4 Arizona this Sunday, and look to be the main challengers to Baylor this season.

The Bears have not played as many ranked teams, but they did travel to College Park to face No. 3 Maryland in a back and forth classic. Baylor led and then fell behind by as many as 13 in the third quarter before Smith scored nine straight points. The Terps led by nine nearly all of the fourth quarter before Smith and Lewis got hot. They scored all 21 of Baylor’s fourth quarter points—and combined for 59 on the day— and the Bears had an opportunity to force overtime before an Andrews’ three went in and out at the buzzer.

Baylor then won all their games in Cancun over Thanksgiving beating Fordham, Arizona State and Houston all by double figures. They crushed Morehead State and Alcorn State and survived Missouri 70-68 in the Big 12-SEC Challenege sandwiched in between.

This Baylor team has a vastly different identity than Mulkey’s program who won 23 Big 12 and three national titles. Collen is going to work to spread the floor and hoist up many more three-point attempts. I asked her what her ideal shot count is and she estimated that she wants about 25-30 threes taken per game and for her team to make about 35-40 percent of those shots.

That seems to track so far this season. The Bears shot 6-of-25 (24 percent) from three vs Maryland for example, but also have no problem pounding the rock inside like they did against Missouri (only 4-of-16 from three; 20-of-40 from two).

Baylor hosts No. 13 Michigan in yet another Sweet 16 Sunday rematch at the Ferrell Center. The Wolverines are a touch and physical team who can shoot the ball and that has no problem and is not intimidated by Baylor’s bigs.

This game is on ESPN at noon central, and is one you do not want to miss.

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