It’s been quite a while since the Baylor Lady Bears have found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard at the end of a women’s college basketball game.
A team hasn’t bested Baylor since Nov. 30, 2019. That was when now-ranked No. 1 South Carolina topped the Lady Bears 74-59 at the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
And since then? All Baylor has done is won 15 straight games. Along the way, they’ve beaten UConn and formerly ranked West Virginia. Kim Mulkey’s squad has been rolling through Big 12 play and show no signs of slowing down.
There are a few reasons why Baylor can — and likely will — win every remaining game left on its regular season slate.
STATEMENT WIN: How South Carolina finally beat UConn in women's basketball
The Lady Bears might have the best defense in the country, and that’s not hyperbole. Baylor allows just 50.8 points per-game, a mark that is second-best in the country to only Princeton.
Baylor is also sixth in the nation in blocked shots (139), fifth in defensive rebounds per-game (31.2), first in field goal percentage defense (30.3) and third in three-point percentage defense (24.2).
One of the reasons why Baylor is so good at defense is because its an all-in, total team effort. DiDi Richards leads the team in steals per-game with 2.1, Queen Egbo is blocking 1.7 shots per-game, and Egbo, Nalyssa Smith and Juicy Landrum are averaging a combined 13.8 defensive rebounds per-game.
And then there’s Lauren Cox, the 6-foot-4 senior who was a preseason All-American and named to the All-Tournament team at last year’s Final Four. Cox has battled injuries this season, but has hit her stride lately. Over her last six games, she’s averaging 1.83 blocks, 1.1 steals, 8.1 rebounds and 11.5 points per-contest. In seven of the 15 games she’s played in this season, she’s tallied at least three blocks.
Since losing to South Carolina, Baylor has held 12 of its 15 opponents to 58 points or less. That group includes UConn and West Virginia.
KEEP AN EYE ON: These three unranked teams could surprise in March
Potent and versatile offense
When the Lady Bears won the NCAA championship a year ago, they mostly did it with an offense that relied on scoring from the post. And when you have a team armed with Kalani Brown and Cox, why do anything else?
But this season, Baylor has added a few wrinkles to its offense. The Lady Bears are getting with the times and shooting the three-pointer more, and doing it well. Baylor leads the nation in three-point shooting with a 41.3 percent mark.
Now, Baylor is still shooting the three-ball less than most other teams — every other squad that ranks in the top 20 of three-point shooting percentage has attempted at least 355 three’s, while Baylor has fired up just 264. Still, the Lady Bears aren’t just jacking up shots; they’re taking three’s they can make.
Baylor is also being selective about who takes three-pointers. Most of the time, it’s Te’a Cooper or Landrum, each of which have connected on at least 43 three’s this season and are shooting above 41.3 percent from behind the arc. Moon Ursin has made 11-of-27 three-pointers, and no other Baylor player has attempted more than eight outside shots.
The Lady Bears still know how to score inside too. Their leading scorer is Nalyssa Smith, a 6-foot-2 sophomore forward who is putting up 14.7 points per-game. Third in scoring for Baylor is Egbo, a 6-foot-3 sophomore averaging 12 points per-game. Cox is fourth with 11.8 points per-game. The frontcourt trio has shot a combined 2-for-11 from three-point range, so clearly, their points are coming from elsewhere.
Additionally, Smith has been efficient at getting to the foul line and knocking down the majority of her attempts. She’s 71-of-92 from the charity stripe this season, good enough for eighth in the Big 12.
Baylor is third in the nation in scoring offense, putting up 84.2 points per-game, an average that only trails Oregon and DePaul. The Lady Bears have scored at least 77 points in 10 of their last 15 games.
The schedule ahead
Baylor has just seven games remaining until the Big 12 tournament gets underway. And in each of those games the Lady Bears will likely be big favorites.
As of the latest AP Top 25 Poll released on Feb. 9, no other Big 12 team was ranked. The only team in the receiving votes portion of the poll was TCU, who Baylor has already beaten the Horned Frogs twice.
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: These are the 5 women's basketball freshmen standing out
Remaining on Baylor’s schedule is Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas State and Texas. In RPI, where Baylor ranks sixth, Texas is 39th, and Iowa State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State land between 45th and 47th. All other teams are outside of the top 50. Baylor has already beaten all of these teams once, and — outside of Texas Tech — won by double digits.
Baylor has won 52 straight Big 12 games and hasn't shown any signs of slipping up. All that being said — anything can happen in women's college basketball this season. We have already seen plenty of upsets. However, based on the numbers, with a strong defense, an explosive offense and the schedule, Baylor could potentially breeze through the rest of its Big 12 slate on its way to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.