LUBBOCK, Texas — The talk leading up to this game between Baylor and Texas Tech has been about basketball only.
Both teams are having great seasons, so few are talking about the punch Brittney Griner threw in Lubbock two years ago.
After several years with disappointing results, the Lady Raiders are viable contenders in the Big 12 this season, though they are hoping to end a two-game skid Wednesday night when they host No. 1 Baylor.
The unbeaten Lady Bears (17-0, 4-0) are looking to avenge last season's 56-45 loss in Lubbock — a loss that snapped a 21-game winning streak.
Baylor comes in this year riding the best start to a season in school history.
When Baylor played in Lubbock last February against an unranked Texas Tech team the crowd booed Griner whenever she got the ball. The Lady Raider faithful hadn't forgotten how the 6-foot-8 All-American, then a freshman, delivered her roundhouse punch to Jordan Barncastle's nose in 2009.
Texas Tech coach Kristy Curry said it's appropriate the distractions of the past two years aren't the focus for this game.
"That's what both programs deserve," she said. "We're obviously working to build back and we feel like we've made tremendous strides and they're working to continue to improve too."
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said the rivalry between the two programs has more history than what happened two years ago.
"I don't know that the distractions have defined it, in my opinion," she said. "I go to the film room last year the same way I went to the film room this year. And I'm sure the coaches at Texas Tech, hopefully, have done the same."
The seventeenth-ranked Lady Raiders (14-2, 2-2) have struggled lately to finish games. Last week while ranked 10th, they led Oklahoma and Kansas State in the closing minutes but ended up losing both games.
Free throws are the culprit, Curry said, pointing to the team percentage for the season (67 percent). In Saturday's 62-61 loss to the Wildcats the Lady Raiders shot just 53 percent. In the 71-68 loss at Oklahoma last week they shot 58 percent
"You're not going to beat many folks" with those percentages, she said. "We're getting to the line. We've got to convert. I think that's been the most disappointing part when you consistently work on them."
Stopping Griner, who is averaging a double-double (22.8 points and 10.4 rebounds) and has 483 career blocks to stand at No. 3 all-time, is virtually impossible, Curry said.
"But you've got to make sure you do a great job defensively around her," she said. "It's more than Brittney Griner. It's a total team that makes Baylor special."
Barncastle, who claimed only the media still talk and ask about the punch, said paying close attention to Griner is vital.
"She's going to kind of hog the paint, basically, and you've got to adjust around that and know what we can do to be successful," said the senior who will be facing Griner for the final time in Lubbock. The Lady Raiders will cover Griner "probably like every other team tries to: double, triple team, do what we can, sag off, make people hit big shots from outside the paint and pack it in and get on the boards."
Texas Tech players say the memory of Griner's punch has faded entirely.
"For us, yes, because you got to move on. You don't move on and you stay stuck, you're hurting the team," guard Monique Smalls said. "For the fans, of course everybody's going to (remember) it. But for them at least it helps us. They yell and get in (Griner's) head so we can come out and play the game."
Barncastle knows she and her teammates found a way to win last year.
"I think that you definitely build off a win like that," she said. "I don't really think it's much of a surprise to them what people do every game. There's not really much else you can do. I just think we need to build off of what we've been successful in in the past."