There’s a cliche in sports that says defense wins championships.
But last year in women’s college basketball, that was true for the Baylor Lady Bears. Baylor led the nation in shots blocked with 274 and in the national championship game vs. Notre Dame, the Lady Bears blocked eight shots and held the Irish to a 38.9 percent shooting percentage.
Rim protection is an important skill in college basketball, and if a team is armed with an expert shot blocker, it can go a long way.
Some of the best shot blockers in women’s basketball from a year ago are back this season to swat more shots into the stands. Let’s take a look at them.
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Nancy Mulkey, Junior, Rice
As a 6-foot-9 sophomore, Mulkey led the nation in shots blocked per game last season, swatting away an averaged of 3.92 shots per contest. She blocked 94 shots in all, which was seventh-best in the nation and the best in Conference USA
Mulkey, a native of Cypress, Texas, also averaged 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. She was named CUSA Defensive Player of the Year, CUSA Tournament MVP and to the conference’s First Team last season. She had perhaps her best game of the season last year against UAB, where she scored 14 points, grabbed 10 boards and blocked nine shots.
Rice made the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2005 and could find themselves back in the mix with Mulkey’s shot-blocking abilities.
Lauren Cox, Senior, Baylor
Cox was the backbone of the Lady Bears’ defense last season, averaging 2.5 blocks, 8.3 rebounds and a steal per game. She was the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year, named to the Greensboro All-Region team and was a Third Team All-American.
Her best game last season for shot-blocking was in a win against Oklahoma, where she swatted away seven shots. Then, in an NCAA tournament win over South Carolina, she had five blocks.
Cox is a preseason All-American this year and with her patrolling the paint, Baylor has another chance to get back to the Final Four.
Kayla Cooper-Williams, Redshirt Senior, James Madison
The 6-foot-2 native of Dumfries, Virginia was the CAA Defensive Player of the Year last season and an All-CAA selection after breaking records at James Madison. She tallied nine blocks in a single game twice, set the all-time JMU record for blocks with 187 against William & Mary and set the single-season blocks record with 98.
Cooper-Williams play in the paint helped the Dukes make it all the way to the WNIT semifinals last season. She averaged 2.88 blocks per game, which was fifth-best in the country.
Eleah Parker, Junior, Penn
Parker was the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year last season and a unanimous All-Ivy League First Team selection after averaging 3.19 blocks per game, which was third in the nation. She also averaged 15.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
The 6-foot-4 native of Charlotte, North Carolina had her best shot-blocking game against Drexel last season, swatting away seven shot attempts. She helped Penn win 24 games last season and advance in the WNIT.
This preseason, Parker was named to the Leslie Award watchlist, given to the best center in women’s basketball.
Ae’rianna Harris, Senior, Purdue
Harris was third in the nation in total blocks last season, swatting away 104 shots. She was an honorable mention All-American, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and broke the Boilermakers’ career record for blocked shots.
A 6-foot-1 native of Indianapolis, Indiana, Harris had a career game against Ohio last year, blocking eight shots in a single game.
Purdue went just 19-15 last season but could see some improvement with Harris protecting the rim.