Baylor guard Alexis Jones (knee) expected back for tourney opener

WACO, Texas -- Welcome back, Alexis Jones, just in time for top-seeded Baylor to start another women's NCAA tournament at home.

Jones, a senior guard who hasn't played in nearly a month because of a bone bruise in her surgically repaired left knee, is expected to be back on the court Saturday night when the top-seeded Lady Bears host SWAC tournament champion and NCAA first-timer Texas Southern.

"I haven't noticed in the days that she's practiced since being cleared that she's any different than she was before," coach Kim Mulkey said Friday. "I'm happy for her personally, and she makes us even better."

The first two NCAA games at home are typically a warm-up for the Big 12 regular-season champion Lady Bears (30-3), who have won 10 straight tournament games in the Ferrell Center -- by an average margin of 29 points. This is their fifth straight year hosting since their last Final Four, the 40-0 national championship season in 2012. If they do win them, they'll advance to Oklahoma City.

In the first-round nightcap at Waco, eighth-seeded LSU (20-11) plays ninth seed California (19-13). The Golden Bears got their fifth NCAA bid in six seasons under newly engaged coach Lindsay Gottlieb, even though they followed a school-record 13-0 start by losing 13 of 19 games.

"I don't think we need to prove that we belong in the tournament, but we want to win the game," Gottlieb said. "If you looked at the numbers and you really took what the committee said they were looking at, our 30-game resume compared very favorably with the other teams."

Jones, who is averaging 13.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in her 26 games this season, last played at Texas on Feb. 20, when she got hurt early in the game.

"I'm feeling a lot better, and I'm excited to get back out there on the court," Jones said. "I'm just happy and blessed that I'm able to come back and play again."

Before transferring back to her home state of Texas, Jones tore her left ACL during her sophomore season at Duke. She redshirted at Baylor two years ago while recovering from the ACL surgery and having a microfracture procedure on her right knee.

Mulkey said she wasn't sure if Jones would start, but she indicated that Jones would have no limits on how many minutes she can play.

"The game will dictate that," Mulkey said. "I would expect her to be good to go."