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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Baylor Is Committed to Following the Plan

January 01, 2003|MIKE TERRY

Kim Mulkey-Robertson, in her third season coaching at Baylor, hears all the snide remarks.

Of how the Bears play a creampuff nonconference schedule. Or that getting bounced in the second round of last year's NCAA tournament proved that they didn't deserve the No. 7 ranking -- despite the fact Baylor won 26 games and finished second in the Big 12 Conference behind Oklahoma.

And that Baylor will never finish strong in March because the Bears aren't toughened in November and December.

Mulkey-Robertson could care less. She knew she had a very good team last year, led by standouts Sheila Lambert and Danielle Crockrom. She knew she had an inexperienced team going into this season.

And neither squad needed its confidence shattered before Big 12 play began.

I don't think [scheduling] is an exact science," Mulkey-Robertson said. "No one has a better feel for a team than the coach. You must be careful not to over-schedule young teams against hard teams. That is a gamble.

"We've been here three years and inherited a program that won seven games. It's not about number of wins. My contract is based on taking this program to next level on a consistent basis.

"What I'm trying to do is put our ladies in position to be competitive and grow, and be more confident before Big 12."

No one can argue with Mulkey-Robertson's plan at the moment. The Bears, though unranked, are 11-1.

But if Baylor stumbles early in the tournament again, Mulkey-Robertson may need ear plugs to drown out the complaints.

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There are two games this week that will have a direct impact on the national scene.

Sixth-ranked Stanford plays host to No. 19 Oklahoma on Friday.

The Cardinal has wins over top-25 teams Kansas State and Arizona, and its only loss was at Tennessee. And Stanford has done it all without the injured Nicolle Powell.

A win Saturday will allow the Cardinal to think it's capable of a long run in the NCAA tournament.

Oklahoma is a respectable 9-3 after replacing four starters from last year's NCAA finalist team.

The Sooners have one top-25 victim, beating then-No. 12 North Carolina. A road win in Palo Alto would be more impressive.

And Saturday there's the annual brawl between Tennessee and Connecticut, played this year in Connecticut.

The third-ranked and defending NCAA champion Huskies bring a 50-game winning streak into the game. That's four games short of the record, set by Louisiana Tech from 1980 to '82.

You can bet, however, ending the streak is not the fifth-ranked Lady Vols' main motivation.

Tennessee remembers all too well how Connecticut humiliated the Lady Vols twice last season -- 86-72 in Knoxville, and 79-56 in the Final Four.

Granted, last year's Husky team was one of the best. But Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt does not take any defeat lightly, and she particularly detests being blasted by one of Geno Auriemma's teams.

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A big weekend in Oregon gave UCLA's Michelle Greco an early edge in the Pacific 10 Conference scoring race. Greco is averaging 19.3 points, two-tenths of a point better than Arizona's Shawntinice Polk.... Among the reasons eighth-ranked Texas Tech is 9-1: freshman Erin Grant is the Big 12 assists leader at 7.2 a game.... Illinois' Theresa Grentz recently became the eighth women's college coach to win 600 games.

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