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Does 'one game at a time' still hold when Texas must play Baylor twice in three days?

Coach Vic Schaefer, whose Longhorns are tied with longtime nemesis Baylor for third place in the Big 12 race, must face the Bears twice in three days this weekend. Texas has lost 25 of the past 26 meetings with Baylor.

Like many coaches, Vic Schaefer insists he doesn't look ahead on the schedule.

Back in November, Schaefer said: "I don't ever get ahead of myself. I know you probably want to talk about another one, but the most important one is the one tomorrow night." At the time, he was steering the conversation to the next game on the Texas women's basketball schedule, a Wednesday night home game against Jackson State, and not toward that weekend's marquee matchup against Texas A&M.

When the topic of an upcoming visit to Oklahoma was broached last month, Schaefer said, "We'll cross that bridge next week." Texas had games against TCU and Kansas State to worry about first.

So Schaefer likes to take it one game at a time. But what happens when you play the same team twice within a three-day stretch?

No. 13 Texas (15-4, 5-3 Big 12) will play at No. 9 Baylor (15-5, 5-3) on Friday night. Then the Bears will make the drive to Austin to play Texas again Sunday afternoon. The Longhorns were scheduled to play in Waco on Jan. 9, but the game was postponed because of COVID-19 protocols within the Baylor program.

"We're just trying to get ready for one game on Friday," Schaefer said this week. "You'll have one day to make adjustments on Saturday before you go back and hit ’em again on Sunday."

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Texas and Baylor are tied for third place in the Big 12, both looking up at No. 11 Iowa State (19-3, 8-2) and No. 18 Oklahoma (19-3, 8-2). 

Texas guard Joanne Allen-Taylor, taking the court before the Longhorns' 93-58 win over Texas-Rio Grande Valley on Jan. 9, says: "One game at a time. Can't look too far ahead. Just got the next one — that's it."

To keep pace in the Big 12 race, the Longhorns must do something they haven't done much recently: beat Baylor.

Dating back to 2011, Texas has lost 25 of its last 26 games against the Bears. That one win was in 2017. At the time of that 85-79 victory in Waco, current UT seniors Joanne Allen-Taylor and Audrey Warren were juniors in high school and a few months away from committing to Texas.

The program's struggles against Baylor haven't been a topic of conversation at Texas this week, though. Schaefer pointed out that not too many of his players even have any history with the Bears. Allen-Taylor and Warren have each played in the past six Texas-Baylor games, but nine of the 13 players on Texas' roster have yet to make an appearance in this series, and reserve guard Shay Holle has played a total of two minutes.

"It's the No. 9 team in the country," Schaefer said. "That's what's come up" in conversations.

Baylor coach Nicki Collen has big shoes to fill, as she replaced coaching legend Kim Mulkey when Mulkey left for LSU. Collen, a former WNBA coach, has her team averaging 76.6 points this season.

For the fans who are more familiar with the rivalry, this Baylor team might look a little different. Technically, the team even goes by a new name. The Bears dropped the "Lady" from their nickname in September.

NaLyssa Smith, the Big 12's reigning player of the year, and Queen Egbo are still around, but Baylor now starts transfer guards from Alabama and Oklahoma State. And after Kim Mulkey — considered either the longtime hero or longtime heel in this series, depending on whom you root for — left for LSU, Baylor hired former WNBA coach Nicki Collen.

Baylor's five losses are already the program's most since the 2013-14 season, but each of the schools that have beaten the Bears is currently ranked. Baylor is averaging 76.6 points while allowing 61.2.

"Queen and NaLyssa are both two extremely talented, big-time inside players that have expanded their game," Schaefer said. "I think Nicki's team is very good offensively. ... I think what makes them different this year is that all three of their guards can all shoot it."

This weekend's games will be Texas' third and fourth straight against ranked teams. Last week, the Longhorns beat No. 25 Kansas State and then lost at No. 18 Oklahoma.

On the horizon is a home game against Oklahoma a week from Saturday. Next Wednesday, the Longhorns must travel to face a Texas Tech team that battered them in Austin last month.

Allen-Taylor recently was asked about the message being delivered to players as they run through this gantlet on the schedule. For her answer, the senior borrowed a cliché from Schaefer and drew a sly smile from her coach.

"One game at a time," Allen-Taylor said. "Can't look too far ahead. Just got the next one — that's it."