Close game no problem for Baylor as they beat Oregon to advance to national championship game
TAMPA, Fla. — Baylor’s fourth-ever trip to the Final Four ended in victory as the overall top-seeded Lady Bears took down No. 2 seeded Oregon, 72-67, to earn a chance to play for the national title for the first time since 2012. With a strong presence in the paint and a strong defensive effort, Baylor (36-1) kept Oregon (33-5) at bay in the second half after the Ducks led by a slim one-point margin at the half. It was only the fourth time this season that Baylor trailed at the half. They only lost one of the games, a lone defeat at Stanford on Dec. 15.
I think they’re a real hard team to guard,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “We stuck to our defense and came out with the win.” Mulkey who entered the postgame presser holding her infant grandson, let the media know that the Lady Bears had no issues with coming out on top in close games, giving credit to how hard her players prepare for games.
“Our practices prepare us for this moment.”
The first two quarters saw a topsy turvy matchup with Baylor leading 19-15 after the first quarter. Oregon caught up in the second period, outscoring the Lady Bears 19-14.
Baylor managed to hold the nation’s triple-double leader, junior guard Sabrina Ionescu, to zero points and just two rebounds in the first quarter. Ionescu recovered in the second period, leading her team in that stretch with 12 points.
Baylor’s impressive duo in the paint, senior center Kalani Brown and junior forward Lauren Cox, led the Lady Bears at the half. Brown had 10 points while Cox had nine plus five rebounds.
While Oregon’s momentum slowed in the third quarter, the Ducks traded the lead with the Lady Bears five times. At the end of the quarter Baylor had a one-point advantage.
The Lady Bears halted Oregon’s momentum in the fourth quarter, outscoring their opponent 16-12 to seal a win.
Oregon head coach Kelly Graves said his team never really got their game going, “was a little out of sync and ultimately that cost us.”
Overall, the Lady Bears shot 54.4 percent from the floor compared to 36.8 percent by Oregon. The largest disparity in field goal percentage came in the last quarter when Baylor shot 60 percent compared to a paltry 26.3 percent by the Ducks.
Brown led all scorers with 22 points plus seven rebounds. Cox earned a double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds plus seven assists. Sophomore guard DiDi Richards added 15 points.
Despite her shooting woes, Ionescu finished with 18 points (6-24 FG) plus four rebounds and six assists. Sophomore forward Satou Sabally contributed 16 and redshirt sophomore forward Erin Boley scored 14 points. Baylor held junior forward Ruthy Hebard to just four points, well below her season average of 16.4 points per game. She did manage to grab nine rebounds.
The game added to Baylor’s win streak, now at 28 games. The Lady Bears move to 4-0 all-time against the Ducks.
Baylor will face Notre Dame for the national title on Sunday at 6 p.m. ET. The Irish defeated UConn in the second semifinal of the evening. The championship will be televised on ESPN.
Both Baylor and Notre Dame have two national titles already.