WACO, Texas (KWTX) In theory, two-year long conference winning streaks and university proximity should equal must-win attitudes going into rivalry games that involve the Texas Longhorns.
But for Kim Mulkey and the top-ranked Baylor Lady Bears, they've already wrapped up the Big 12 regular season title for the ninth-straight time. They've lost just once in 26 games this season and control their own destiny toward achieving a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
This is one of the rare instances that a Baylor loss to Texas wouldn't hurt because of the result itself. The Lady Bears (25-1, 15-0 Big 12) would still have to disprove the No. 1 seed notion in the following games.
Their only loss so far -- 68-63 at Stanford, which is currently ranked No. 7.
Baylor's notable victories include No. 3 UConn, No. 13 South Carolina, No. 17 Arizona State, No. 19 Texas and two against No. 20 Iowa State.
Only injuries, or complacency, have the capability to stop this team.
"We're the outright champion. No matter what happens, they can't take that away from us," Mulkey said. "(Texas is) still fighting for second place with other teams. We're fighting to keep an overall number one seed nationally. I think we have a little wiggle team because a lot of people have lost over the last couple of weeks but when you're a competitor, you want to win them all."
"(We're) playing two tough ones in a row," junior forward Lauren Cox said. "Iowa State and Texas are two of the best teams in our league. It's going to be a tough turnaround, but coach won't kill us today. We'll go over some film, go over some of their plays on the court, and we'll be ready."
A few weeks ago, the Lady Bears almost lost to the Longhorns in Austin, which is a place that Texas has actually suffered five of its six losses this season. Baylor led comfortably after three quarters and won 74-68 despite being outscored by 15 in the fourth because of shooting struggles and an intense Texas full-court press.
Texas kept Cox and Kalani Brown from taking over the game, forcing the bigs to get rid of the ball instead of risking a turnover via double-team, or missing contested shots. Cox finished with 10 points, while Brown still had 15.
But like they've done all season, Baylor relied on the supporting cast to solidify that victory. The defensive stalwart DiDi Richards had four steals, but was impressive offensively as well, scoring 12 points and assisting on five other Lady Bears buckets.
If it wasn't for a career-high 20 points from Moon Ursin, then maybe Texas wouldn't be in the midst of 19 losses in the last 20 matchups with Baylor.
"It's a rivalry," senior guard Chloe Jackson said. "Coach always knows how to fire us up in the locker room, so we'll be ready to go out there and play in a great environment."
Baylor defeated Iowa State 73-60 Saturday to win its 38th-straight regular-season conference game. Tip off between the Lady Bears and Longhorns Monday is set for 6 p.m.