It’s now official. There are no Big 12 teams – men or women – left in the NCAA Basketball Championship, now down to just four teams on each side of the bracket.
Both the Baylor Lady Bears and their All-American senior guard Odyssey Sims came up short in their bids to extend their seasons and stay in the hunt for college basketball’s Holy Grail: a spot in the Final Four and a shot at the national championship.
Playing on its home court, undefeated Notre Dame broke open a game that was relatively close at the 10-minute mark in the second half and rolled to an 88-69 win over Baylor. The victory advances the Fighting Irish to the Women’s Final Four.and a head-on collision in the national semifinal game on Sunday in Nashville with overall top seed UConn, which is also undefeated at 37-0.
The Big 12′s leading scorer this season, Sims had another big game, scoring a game-high 33 points, but it wasn’t enough, as the Lady Bears were pounded in the paint and outscored 46-28 in repeated Notre Dame finishes at the rim.
Notre Dame put together a 16-2 spurt in the opening half that opened up the game and gave the Fighting Irish a 12-point 44-32 advantage at the intermission. The Lady Bears fought their way back into the game, and had closed the Notre Dame lead to 65-60 by the 7:19 point in the second half.
Over the final nine minutes of the game, though, Notre Dame outscored Baylor 23-9. The Fighting Irish were 30 of 33 from the free-throw line, many of those points coming late in the game. Sims was whistled for her fourth foul with around six minutes to go in the game and was forced to sit. Shortly after that, freshman Nina Davis, who had been on a scoring terror in recent games, fouled out with just seven points in 23 minutes of action.
The Lady Bears shot just 34 percent for the game and must have missed at least 20 shots from virtually point-blank range. Clearly not a formula for a championship-caliber team.
“Some of it could have been inexperience, some of it could have been nerves, some of it could have been Notre Dame’s defense,” said Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey, who has won two national championships in her 14 seasons in Waco.
“I’ll never forget how this feels,” Baylor’s Davis said after the game. “It’s a hurtful feeling.”
Baylor finished the season with a record of 32-5, including the Big 12 regular-season crown and winners of the league championship tournament.
Sims finished the season with 1,054 points, just nine points shy of breaking Jackie Stiles’ single-season scoring mark of 1,062 points, set in 2000-01.