No. 9 Baylor women deep, talented young roster
WACO, Texas (AP) Baylor coach Kim Mulkey no longer has All-American players Brittney Griner or Odyssey Sims on the floor like in recent seasons.
Mulkey instead has a roster loaded with talented young players that makes her think about what John Calipari has with the No. 1 Kentucky men and his platoon system.
''I kind of like what Calipari's doing. You hate to call them bench players, you hate to call them subs, you hate to call them all that,'' said Mulkey, in her 15th season at Baylor. ''I can only play five at a time, and I'm comfortable starting any of those 10. I'm comfortable with any of those 10 being on the floor right now.''
Led by sophomore post Nina Davis, the ninth-ranked Lady Bears (8-1) have four players averaging double figures in scoring and two more with at least nine points a game. There are 10 players getting on the court for at least 15 minutes per game.
''We have a lot of doubters, and `How can you replace this?' and `How can you replace an All-American and things like that?' but we have a lot of different weapons on this team that I don't think people were aware of,'' Davis said. ''As the season goes on they'll start to notice that we do have other people that can step up. We do have people that can play defense and make up for the things we lost.''
The Lady Bears, who are outscoring opponents by 36 points a game, are in a Florida tournament this weekend. They play Syracuse on Friday night and then Michigan State on Saturday in a rematch of the 2005 national championship game Baylor won by 22 points.
Baylor's only loss was to Kentucky in the second game of the season. But the four-time defending Big 12 champion Lady Bears, with only one senior on their 13-player roster, have scored at least 88 points in every other game.
''I like the way we're progressing so far,'' Davis said. ''Things are really starting to fall together. The pieces are starting to fit.''
Only once has Baylor finished a season under Mulkey with 10 players averaging double-figure minutes. That was 2010-11, when Sims was a freshman point guard and the 6-foot-8 Griner was a sophomore, one year before the Lady Bears had an undefeated 40-win season. The only time they finished with more than three double-figure scorers was 2007-08, when they had five.
An undersized post at 5-foot-11, Davis led the Big 12 in rebounding as a freshman last season and was Baylor's top returning player this season. She leads the team with 23.3 points and 7.4 rebounds while playing a team-high 29.3 minutes a game.
Davis and three other post players - 6-5 junior Kristina Higgins, 6-2 sophomore Khadijiah Cave and 6-2 freshman Dekeiya Cohen - are shooting a combined 62 percent this season. Australian freshman Kristy Wallace is a sharp-shooting guard and Niya Johnson has a team-high 65 assists with an even more prominent role running the point with Sims gone.
With all that help around her, Davis hasn't had to do things alone.
''She just kind of blends in, and when it's necessary, OK, if it's there, I'll do it. I've got 10 kids that can play,'' Mulkey said. ''They all can play and they all play the same position. So there's not a lot of great separation there. And the good thing is they're all young. I've just got to keep figuring out who needs to play with who, who do I get the most out of at what time of the game, because they can all score and they don't lack for confidence in shooting it.''