OKLAHOMA CITY — Louisville coach Jeff Walz, whose team has already played and lost to Connecticut and Notre Dame in the rugged Big East, must now face Baylor, a team that’s beaten both Connecticut and Notre Dame (even in Storrs and South Bend). At least he has a good attitude about it.
“We’ll come out there (tonight). If we can get away with putting six on the floor, we will,” he said. “If not, we won’t. We’ll try at least once.”
After that he repeated some of what everybody says about facing the No. 1 team in the nation and the defending NCAA champion.
The Cardinals will try to push Baylor center Brittney Griner away from the basket as far as they can. They’ll try to limit her touches and not let her rebound her own misses. They’ll try to get her shooting jumpers rather than layups. And still, when he finally came clean, he admitted he doesn’t want to get too wrapped up in how to stop Baylor, because that’s not his primary focus when the two teams tip off a little while after Oklahoma and Tennessee finish their game at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“The whole key to anybody who has had any success against them (is) they’ve been able to score … Instead of getting all concerned about how we’re going to stop Brittney Griner from scoring 30, forget it, she’s going to,” he said. “Figure out a way we’re going to score 70. If we can figure that out, then you might have a chance to get to the last 5 minutes of the ballgame where the shots start to matter. With the success they’ve had, it’s been a while since a shot’s mattered in the last 4 or 5 minutes of (their) game.”
Modest Mulkey: Baylor coach Kim Mulkey took a note out of Barry Switzer’s book when asked just how her team has won 74 of 75 games.
“Talent,” she said. “I’m a coach who believes in acknowledging what you have.”
She did, though, give her players some credit beyond their natural gifts.
“Once you assemble that talent, you’ve got to fix egos, fix roles, let people know what is expected of them … Just to watch each of them evolve into what their role is, accept it, be content and happy for each other, for our program as a whole, makes you proud as a coach to have them.
Brooklyn’s way: Apparently, Mulkey and sophomore forward Brooklyn Pope weren’t always on the same page. The question was given to Pope, how did she and her coach get their personalities on the same page. Here was Pope’s illuminating answer.
“I think … coach Mulkey didn’t really know how to bring out the best in me,” she said. “This year, it kind of came together that I’m not the type of kid to howl (at) or text after the game, after a practice; just let me go with it and it will be better if I find my way versus you trying to guide me. Let me do my thing, everything will go smooth. She don’t bother me at all.”
Same old Ellenberg: Sooner shooting guard Aaryn Ellenberg is coming off 22- and 27-point performances last week against Central Michigan and UCLA. Against the Chippewas, 18 came in the second half after it had become a very close game. Against the Bruins, she was great later, but better early.
If she’s feeling any pressure to get going early against Tennessee, she’s not copping to it.
“My job’s really just to do what I’ve been doing,” she said. “I mean, there’s no added pressure or anything for me to try to go score the most points or score all the points early. (My job is) just pretty much do what I’ve been doing and just play along with everybody else and we’ll be OK.”
Following a legend: Tennessee coach Holly Warlick spoke about what it’s like to follow a legend in former Lady Vol coach Pat Summitt (and still head coach emeritus of the program), who no longer coaches the Lady Vols after being diagnosed with “early-onset dementia,” a type of Alzheimer’s disease.
“I’m thankful that she was a part of my life as far as teaching me her philosophy and what’s important in basketball and what you need to focus on. That has helped me in that transition,” she said. “But I think probably what’s difficult has been not having her in the light that I’m used to seeing her.”
Still, Warlick said, she consults with Summitt frequently, loves having her around and wants her at practice every day.
“I talk to her daily,” she said.
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