Date: Wednesday, January 12th, 2020
Location: Ferrell Center, Waco, TX
Time: 7:00 PM
On January 22nd, the TCU Horned Frogs held a 45-44 lead over the Baylor Lady Bears after three quarters of basketball. And while Baylor turned it on in the fourth en route to a 66-57 victory, the game looked for a time like it would feature Baylor's 51-game Big 12 winning streak – the longest winning streak in Big 12 history – and their dominance over TCU come to an end. The Horned Frogs haven't beaten Baylor since February 2nd, 1990, a streak that now goes back over 30 years.
On Wednesday, TCU will get another chance to prove they can hang with – and potentially beat – a Baylor team that's in the conversation for the best team in college basketball.
This time, though, TCU has to deal with an extra factor that will complicate things, as Baylor is at home for this one. It's always harder to beat a great team on the road. Baylor also has one of their better players, NaLyssa Smith, back for this contest. Smith missed the first meeting with an ankle injury. Smith's presence will make it even more difficult for TCU.
In that first meeting, TCU managed to stay with Baylor despite an uncharacteristically bad shooting night for the Horned Frogs. Kianna Ray was 4-for-10 from three, with the rest of the team going a combined 1-for-9 from long distance. Jaycee Bradley made that other long-range shot.
But despite that, Baylor wasn't able to pull away because of their own shooting issues, plus 18 Lady Bears turnovers, which is five more than their season average. TCU worked to stifle Baylor's guard play, and without Smith available down low, it became hard to generate offense. That is why a team that averages 84.4 points per game ended up with just 66, their fifth-lowest mark of the season.
So, what are the keys to winning this game for both teams?
For Baylor, it's pretty simple: be Baylor.
As reductive as that sounds, a healthy Baylor squad with all of their pieces working should beat anyone in the country. They've got a dominant front court with Lauren Cox and NaLyssa Smith, plus very solid guard play to go along with that. Te'a Cooper – recently named a finalist for the Nancy Liberman award that's given to the best point guard in the country – gives Baylor an outside shooting threat that the historically post-centric team hasn't always had, which allows them to weather the storm better when things aren't working at 100 percent.
If Baylor's able to play offense at the level they're capable of, they'll win.
TCU does have a path, though. First, they need players like Lauren Heard to play well. Heard had 11 points in the first meeting, but shot just 3-for-14 from the field. Heard went through a four-game stretch of shooting under 20 percent before she caught fire against Kansas. The Horned Frogs can't afford to have one of their best scorers get taken out of the game by shooting woes.
On the other end of the floor, they've got to shut something down of Baylor's. Based on the last game and on what TCU has done best this year, that might mean pressuring their guards and forcing Baylor to beat them down low. TCU's opponents shoot just 27.7 percent from three on the year, and if they can keep Baylor from getting much going from deep while also forcing turnovers, we could see a game that plays out in a similar fashion to the last meeting. That would give TCU another shot at the upset.
Of course, Baylor's stronger this time, and forcing the ball inside means that Cox and Smith should be able to feast. In that scenario, you're once again finding yourself in a tough situation, so you probably need a little luck on your side as well.
Baylor's hard to beat. They last lost to a Big 12 opponent in March 2017. It's going to take a garguantuan effort from the Horned Frogs to change that. But we saw them come so close just a few weeks ago, and it'll be fun to see if they can get all the way there on Wednesday night.