Baylor is more than Nina and Niya this time around in the NCAA Tournament. And Alexis Jones is back.
“Our duo has turned into a trio,” said three-time All-Big 12 forward Nina Davis, who with national assists leader Niya Johnson helped the Lady Bears reach regional finals the past two seasons.
And now it’s a strong trio with former Duke transfer Jones healthy and getting ready for her first NCAA game with Baylor after being the MVP of the Big 12 Tournament that the Lady Bears won for the sixth consecutive season.
“She’s so talented,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “For her to blend into this team with all the talent we already had speaks volumes to her being super intelligent and figuring it out and working her way into being a great player here.”
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Jones, whose only NCAA appearance was as a freshman with Duke three years ago, is Baylor’s second-leading scorer as a junior at 14.6 points per game, one less than Davis. In the Big 12 Tournament, Jones had 19 points and 11 assists in the semifinal game and added 16 points and eight assists in the championship.
Baylor (33-1) is home against Idaho (24-9) on Friday for its NCAA opener in the Dallas Region.
For the Vandals, it’s a chance to prove they aren’t a No. 16 seed, which fired up coach Jon Newlee after Monday’s televised announcement.
“We’re going to fight like dogs, man, to get out and play our hearts out and not leave anything in that locker room. We’re going to come out and we’re going to battle,’’ Newlee said Thursday.
Said senior post Ali Forde: “I think we were expecting kind of a higher seed, but the fact that we got a 16 seed, it doesn’t make any difference. We’re still going to go out there and play basketball. There’s nothing you can do about it. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.’’
Baylor beat Idaho 88-70 in a nonconference game in Waco last season.
Said Baylor coach Kim Mukley: “No, they are better than a 16 seed. I thought we would see the Southland Conference or the SWAC just take a bus and come over here, certainly would have saved them some money. But Jon Newlee is exactly right. We played his team last year, and they are good.’’
A No. 16 seed has defeated a No. 1 only once in the history of the women’s tournament: Harvard beat Stanford 71-67 in the 1998 NCAA Tournament.