Kalani Brown scored 22 points and Lauren Cox added 21 as Baylor held off Final Four newcomer OR 72-67 Friday night to reach the NCAA women's basketball championship game for the first time since 2012.
The opening semifinal at sold-out Amalie Arena was billed as old school vs. new school - a matchup of contrasting styles, with Baylor hoping to exploit a size advantage inside with an imposing frontcourt of the 6-foot-7 Brown and 6-4 Cox, and OR looking to test the Bears' ability to defend the 3-point line. At almost 42 percent, OR leads the nation in 3-point shooting percentage, and they're likely to take advantage of that Friday, stretching out Baylor's defense. Cox made a pair of free throws to push Baylor's lead to 71-67 with 18 seconds left.
The Ducks' 3-point shooting kept them in the game in the third quarter after Baylor rattled off an 8-0 run toward the start to go up 45-40.
Oregon Ducks guard Sabrina Ionescu (20) reacts during player introductions prior to the semifinals of the women's Final Four of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Amalie Arena against the Baylor Lady Bears. Cox, Brown said, was quiet.
Ionescu dashed that on Sunday - much to the delight of Ducks fans - when she announced in a letter published to the Players Tribune that she would be returning to OR for her senior season. "Credit to a really good defensive team". "No magical words", Mulkey said. "I'm watching the game really just to cheer on my teammates and to find things for them seeing what can I say the next time in the next timeout to someone to get them back just kind of like being a cheerleader for my teammates".
Baylor won without hitting a 3-pointer while scoring 48 of its 72 points in the paint. "We saw bits and pieces of it here and there". Much is made of Baylor's size with Cox and 6-7 Kalani Brown, but the Lady Bears' length on the perimeter - DiDi Richards and Juicy Landrum spent most of the game guarding her - bothered Ionescu. Ionescu shot 6 for 24, including 0 for 7 in the fourth quarter.More news: Judge blocks Trump's asylum policy but delays enforcement
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OR was in the Final Four for the first time, finally breaking through under Coach Kelly Graves after losing in the Elite Eight the past two years. Oregon, facing the pressure of the Bears and of the moment, tightened up and missed its final five shot attempts. The game was going to match Baylor's posts against Oregon's shooters.
"I think this is just going to make us more hungry to get back to this stage", junior Ionescu said.
The 5-foot-11 guard from Walnut Creek, California, was the only player in the country averaging at least 15 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
What's new? At a time when TV ratings for women's basketball are rising, the Ducks' Final Four appearance brings a fresh dose of excitement.
The Bears held opponents to an NCAA-low 31.3 percent field goal percentage in the regular season.
The only basket OR scored during the final six minutes was Satou Sabally's 3-pointer that tied it at 67.