Odyssey Sims has been important to Baylor from the first minute of her freshman season. But in her last year of college, it's as if she has gone from being a member of a really good band to becoming the lead vocalist. It's her turn to be in the spotlight, and wow, has she proved ready for that.
Heading into a Big Monday showdown with No. 1 UConn (ESPN2 and WatchESPN, 7 p.m. ET), Sims is leading Division I women's basketball in scoring, averaging 31.8 points. She has scored 40 or more points three times this season for Baylor (14-1), including a career-high 48 against West Virginia on Jan. 8.
Sims has as many steals (31) as turnovers, along with 67 assists. She is shooting 51.6 percent from the field, including 45.2 percent from 3-point range (47 of 104). The 5-foot-8 guard is at 81.8 percent from the foul line and adds 4.3 rebounds a game. Baylor's Kim Mulkey has called Sims the best on-ball defender she has ever coached. Oh, and Sims is also the emotional leader of a young squad that lost five seniors, including 2013 WNBA top draft pick Brittney Griner.
"I do have a big role on this team, and I've embraced it," Sims said. "I'm proud of it. I've always been a leader, but I guess it's coming out more than ever this year. I took lessons from the players who were older than me, and no matter what, I always stay positive."
Now that we've clearly established just how great a senior season Sims is having, let's address the huge challenge she and the Lady Bears are about to face: the top-ranked, defending NCAA champion Huskies.
UConn will visit the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, on Monday, and Baylor's 69-game home-court winning streak is on the line.
Guess who has been at Baylor for all 69 of those victories? Sims, of course. She and fellow senior starter Makenzie Robertson have never lost at home. In fact, the only Baylor player who has any experience with leaving the Ferrell Center on a down note is redshirt senior Mariah Chandler, who was a freshman the last time Baylor lost at home: March 7, 2010, versus Texas.
That was Griner's freshman season, and the Lady Bears went to the Final Four later that season, where they lost to eventual champion UConn. That 2010 matchup at the Alamodome in San Antonio was the first meeting between UConn and Baylor. There have been three games since between the programs.
The next season, the Huskies and Lady Bears met in Hartford, Conn., and UConn got a thrilling 65-64 victory on Nov. 16, 2010. That was the rookie Sims' fourth collegiate game, and her national-television debut. She came off the bench to score 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, with 6 rebounds and 3 steals. The real deal? Yeah, it was obvious just in that game.
The subsequent two contests between UConn and Baylor have gone the Lady Bears' way: Baylor won 66-61 on Dec. 18, 2011, in Waco, and then 76-70 on Feb. 18, 2013, in Hartford.
That most recent matchup with UConn was the last game in which Sims was held below double digits in scoring. She had an off night shooting then -- 3-of-15 for nine points -- but had seven assists and no turnovers.