Baylor women OK with focus on top 3, just want Final Four

WACO, Texas (AP) Baylor All-America forward Nina Davis and the fourth-ranked Lady Bears are just fine with all that focus on the teams ahead of them in the AP Top 25 poll.

''That's only three teams and it's four teams that go to the Final Four,'' Davis said. ''If they talk about those teams, that still leaves an open spot, and that's the spot we're going for.''

While somewhat under the radar nationally, even with two national championships under coach Kim Mulkey, the Lady Bears (26-1) have the most wins in Division I this season. They are also the Big 12 leader again after winning their league's regular season and tournament titles each of the past five years.

''All I want is to put them in a position to win a Big 12 championship and get a big seed in the NCAA Tournament, and see how far we can take it,'' said Mulkey, in her 16th season at Baylor. ''Talk about Connecticut, you should. Talk about Notre Dame, you should. Talk about South Carolina, you should. But it's been fun coaching this bunch, and we think we're pretty good.''

UConn (25-0) is the 10-time national champion with a 62-game winning streak going into the weekend. No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 South Carolina were both 25-1, and their only losses were to the Huskies.

Davis and record-setting senior point guard Niya Johnson were among seven returners from last season, when the Lady Bears ended with a loss to Notre Dame in an NCAA regional final for the second year in a row. It was their fifth consecutive season with at least 32 wins, and 15th year in a row winning more than 20 games.

Former Duke transfer Alexis Jones joined the mix after sitting out last season. The Lady Bears also added a pair of freshman post players who were McDonald's All-Americans and are already having a big impact – 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown and 6-4 Beatrice Mompremier.

''Every game, we're starting to come together,'' Davis said. ''The freshmen, they're more comfortable now. They're rebounding, they're scoring. You have Alexis Jones being the Alexis Jones that we all knew she could be. Throw Niya in the mix, and Niya does what she does. You have Alexis Prince who's finally healthy now, and (sophomore shooting guard) Kristy Wallace, and the list goes on and on.''

Jones started all 64 games she played at Duke over two seasons out of MacArthur High in Irving, Texas, the same school as former Lady Bears point guard Odyssey Sims, a two-time All-American whose career assists record has been obliterated by Johnson.

After tearing her ACL in her left knee as a sophomore at Duke and having a microfracture procedure on her other leg, Jones rehabbed while redshirting last season following her transfer. Prince, a junior guard, missed 14 games after arthroscopic surgery in November on her right knee but has worked her way back into the starting lineup.

''Having all your team does matter,'' Mulkey said. ''It makes a difference.''

Baylor lost its Big 12 opener 52-45 at Oklahoma State without Johnson or Prince, then won its next 13 games. The Lady Bears avenged that loss with a 66-41 victory Wednesday night, matching their season-opening 13-game winning streak that was snapped in that Dec. 30 game.

''No. 4 in the country, and obviously that good,'' Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell said after his team lost the rematch. ''With all the pieces to the puzzle right now, they're the team to beat in this league right now. They're very similar to KU men. Until somebody beats them and knocks them off, they're controlling this league right now.''

Kansas has won the last 11 Big 12 men's titles, and tops the league again this season.

Mulkey described herself being ''as disappointed in a basketball team as I've ever been in a win'' after Baylor allowed 37 points in the fourth quarter of an 81-75 victory at TCU, which had trailed by 25 points after scoring only 38 the first three quarters.

In their two games after that, the Lady Bears allowed only 36 points in a 30-point win at Texas Tech and held the Cowgirls to 41.

''We respond in a lot of different ways, but at the same time, we all stick together,'' Jones said. ''I think after we know we play a bad game, we always come back and clean it up. Now is just trying to find that consistency of playing good every single game.''

Into March, and hopefully all the way to Indianapolis for the Final Four.