WACO, Texas (CBS / AP) –There will be no return trip to the NCAA Final Four for California.
A year after the Bears’ surprising run through the NCAA tournament, their season ended in the second round this time after Baylor took over in the second half Monday night and won 75-56.
“It’s never easy when a season ends with a group of people you love being around and want to keep playing with,” third-year Cal coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “One of our goals this year was to play until somebody beats us, until someone takes it from us. I thought Baylor did that tonight. I think this is a terrific team with an unbelievable home atmosphere and a lot of really good players.”
Odyssey Sims scored 27 points in her final home game for Baylor, including a game-clinching 13-2 run in which she scored 11 of the points and punctuated the 5-minute spurt with a long 3-pointer while her coach while trying to call a different play from the sideline.
Cal (22-10) had tied the game at 44 on Boyd’s jumper with 13:56 left. That was the eighth — and last — tie of the game before Baylor (31-4) ended the game with a 31-12 run that included that Sims-dominated segment.
“I think this is a terrific team with an unbelievable home atmosphere and a lot of really good players. I thought our players put up a heck of a battle,” Gottlieb said. `I thought it was a great basketball game. I was really proud of the way our players competed. And I think they beat us. I think the final score was not indicative of how close it was.
Afure Jemerigbe, one of the two senior starters, had 17 points for Cal. Boyd scored 15 while playing 39 minutes and hitting the floor several times, with the junior guard often grimacing in pain while getting up slowly.
Boyd has been dealing with a right ankle injury for several weeks, but insisted she wasn’t playing hurt.
“No. No. I got hit pretty hard by some screens. It was a rough game, a very physical, physical game against the best point guard in the country,” Boyd said. “It was very physical and you try to stay in front of her and then a screen comes. You try to go as fast as you can. I was really getting hit.”
With the shot clock running down for Baylor (31-4) and coach Kim Mulkey trying to call a play from the sideline, Sims instead knocked down the 3 that could only make her coach smile and put Baylor up 66-52.
“She pretty much knows what we want to do in that situation. She let it fly before we do what we normally do,” Mulkey said. “That’s one of those shots, what is she doing (to) that’s a great shot. Typical Odyssey.”
The battle of Bears included seven ties and 17 lead changes before halftime, when Baylor was without both Sims and top freshman Nina Davis for 7 1/2 minutes because of fouls. Both scored more than 30 pointers in Baylor’s opening-round victory over Western Kentucky.
But it was while they were the bench that Baylor built its biggest lead of the first half, 29-25 after Khadijiah Cave, a 6-foot-2 freshman post, scored three inside baskets in a span of just more than 2 minutes.
The last lead change came on freshman Imani Wright’s 3-pointer just before halftime for a 34-33 lead. Baylor never trailed again, and opened the second half with seven consecutive points — all by Davis and Sims.
Baylor, the No. 2 seed in the Notre Dame Regional, plays Kentucky (26-8) on Saturday in South Bend, Ind. That will be a rematch of the highest-scoring Division I women’s game ever. The Wildcats won 133-130 in four overtimes the first weekend of December at the Dallas Cowboys’ NFL stadium that will host the men’s Final Four.
It was in the third round of last year’s NCAA tournament when, then as the defending national champion with two-time AP Player of the Year Brittney Griner and four other seniors, that Baylor was upset by Louisville.
Now, like the Baylor men, this team with a bunch of youngsters led by Sims has gotten them that far again.
“Who woulda thunk it,” said Mulkey, borrowing a phrase from her country mom.
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