Baylor aims for 3rd straight win against Tennessee
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey phoned Tennessee’s Pat Summitt recently
to check on the Hall of Fame coach and to ask if it was still OK
for her Lady Bears to try and beat the Lady Vols.
”My last comment to her was, `Am I supposed to come up there
and try to beat you?’ And she laughed and said, `You better,”’
Mulkey recalled. ”And that’s what Pat expects from all of us. She
knows that we’re all competitors, and she’s still Pat
Summitt has been diagnosed with early onset dementia but has
said she wants the focus on basketball.
It will be Sunday when the top-ranked Lady Bears (5-0) visit
Knoxville looking for a third consecutive victory against No. 6
Few teams have managed three wins in a row against Tennessee
during Summitt’s 37 seasons at the helm, and that significance
isn’t lost on Mulkey.
”They’ve done a heck of a lot more in women’s basketball than
we have at Baylor. And we’re trying to do what they’ve done over a
long period of time, and we’re just getting started,” Mulkey
Baylor is aiming for the national championship that eluded it a
season ago as a top-seeded team. A national title would mark the
second for the program, a feat achieved by just five other teams,
including the eight-time national champ Lady Vols.
The Lady Bears solidified their early grip on the top spot of
the AP Top 25 with a win over then-No. 2 Notre Dame and are coming
off a 109-59 rout of Yale on Tuesday night.
With the way returning starters Brittney Griner, Destiny
Williams, Odyssey Sims and Jordan Madden are playing, the Lady Vols
know nothing will come easy for them.
Griner ”does not give you anything easy in the paint,”
Tennessee assistant coach Mickie DeMoss said. ”She can stand over
on one block and block a shot on the other block. They’re just very
talented. They’ve got some very talented guards. …
”They don’t really have a weakness.”
The Lady Vols showed some weaknesses of their own in a 69-64
overtime loss at previously unranked Virginia on Nov. 20. They
couldn’t get the ball inside to the post and struggled to hit
Tennessee shot 40.7 percent against the Cavaliers and hit just 5
of 24 from 3-point range. The Lady Vols no longer have the kind of
height inside to compete with the 6-foot-8 Griner.
”We’re going to have to stretch them a little bit,” Summitt
DeMoss added: ”There are some games where you say you want to
go inside and then outside. This is probably one game that you’re
probably going to say you’ve got to hit some outside shots.
(Griner) can stand over on one block and block a shot on the other
Tennessee is just as hungry for a national title this season as
Baylor. The Lady Vols’ current senior class hasn’t even made it to
a Final Four, let alone a national championship game, and the
players have said they’re even more determined to ”cut down nets”
since they learned of Summitt’s dementia diagnosis in August.
The Lady Vols are encouraging fans who attend Sunday’s game to
wear ”We Back Pat” T-shirts in honor of Summitt. Sales of the
shirts have raised more than $150,000 for Alzheimer’s research
programs, and the Tennessee athletic department will present checks
to Alzheimer’s Tennessee and UT Medical Center before the game.
The Tennessee players know if they want to honor Summitt with
her ninth championship, they need to first prove themselves against
a tough schedule of opponents. They’ve already claimed over
ninth-ranked Miami but have 10 more games against currently ranked
opponents after facing Baylor.
”Coming to a program like Tennessee, we play one of the
toughest schedules in the game. I’ve always wanted to play against
the best, and to play the best you’ve got to beat the best, and
that’s our goal,” Tennessee freshman point guard Ariel Massengale