March 23, 2009

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) - Baylor has endured its share of struggles the past month.

First they lost leading scorer Danielle Wilson to a season-ending knee injury in late February.

Then, Bears coach Kim Mulkey was hospitalized Sunday after a reaction to medication following removal of a kidney stone two days earlier and missed the Bears' tough 87-82 win in overtime against Texas-San Antonio in the first-round.

Now, the second-seeded Bears (28-5) take on newcomer South Dakota State (32-2), the seventh seed that got its first NCAA tournament win Sunday night and a record-tying 16 3-pointers in its 90-55 rout of TCU.

"It takes us about 12 games to shoot that many 3s," said Mulkey, who plans to coach Tuesday night's game against the Jackrabbits that will decide which team advances in the Raleigh Regional. "When you make 16 3s, Holy Cow. How many did they shoot?"

The Jackrabbits, who have won 18 straight, hit nearly 52 percent of their 31 attempts from behind the arc but they did it against the Horned Frogs' zone defense.

Baylor predominantly uses a man-to-man defense.

"They're going to be a tremendous team for us to compete against tomorrow," Mulkey said. "They're very disciplined on both ends of the floor. They shoot a lot of 3s, but they do other things well. They're able to create shots for each other through all the motion and the things they do offensively. I'm as impressed with their defense as I am their offense."

South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston said Baylor's defense will change their offense "significantly" from the TCU game.

"The things we want to get done are similar," he said. "It's going to be a little tougher off the dribble and I think we're going to have to rely more on penetration."

Offensive movement will be more challenging and the Jackrabbits must avoid letting Baylor's defense spread out their schemes, Johnston said.

"We're going to have to move well, screen well, and still find ways to get the ball reversed," he added.

The two teams have played only once before. Baylor, which gave up the most points this season to the Roadrunners, beat the Jackrabbits 71-53 in November 2006 in a tournament in the Bahamas

Johnston said that game showed his players that they were still being "outmatched" in being aggressive and physical.

"I don't think at that point we were ready to compete with a team like that," he said "As I watch us (now), I think we'll be better prepared for that. But that's still a big factor - how physical and how hard they play."

Mulkey disagreed that South Dakota had ground to gain talentwise.

"I thought two years ago they could have been in this tournament," she said. "I don't think at that time they could qualify. They could have played in the tournament and gotten a great seed then. They haven't closed any gaps. They've been good for a long time."

Senior Jhasmin Player said she felt relieved that Mulkey, who announced "I'm alive" as she walked into the media room for Baylor's news conference Monday, was out of the hospital.

Mulkey was released from University Medical Center midday Monday, three days after the removal of a kidney stone in Waco .

"She didn't say much today," Player said. "She just kind of sat back and watched and saw the things we were doing. But just to have her walk in the gym, it was great."

Leon Barmore, who Mulkey played for and coached with at Louisiana Tech before coming to Baylor in 2000, took the reins for the UTSA game. Mulkey knew the players would respond well.

"I was just very proud of Coach Barmore," she said. "I know he's very emotional. I'm like a daughter to him. Those kids really respect him."

Mulkey knows how excited the Jackrabbits are to have won their first NCAA game and that they will be primed to take on the Bears.

Johnston's team is ready to go against a former national champion (2005), though he understands the Jackrabbits aren't favored but they're also not "complete underdogs."

"Opportunities like this don't come along every single day," he said. "We want to keep going in this tournament. I don't think the team is comfortable with where we're at or content and if we're going to keep going we're going to have to beat the Baylors of the world."