By Joe Buettner
For a minute, the Iowa Hawkeyes looked like they were in Oklahoma City to give No. 2 seed Baylor a ball game. Iowa senior Bethany Doolittle ignited an 11-0 run late in the first half and brought her team within two points of the Big 12 champions.
But just as the game became interesting, a youth movement broke out momentarily in Oklahoma City.
Freshman Kristy Wallace drained one from beyond the arc with 44 seconds to go and sophomore Alexis Prince hit another three at the halftime buzzer to give Baylor an eight-point edge.
“That was huge. I was on a run and Prince hit a big shot and I told her good shot and she said, I don’t know how that went in,” junior Niya Johnson said. “That was huge, because they were getting complacent and also getting our excitement, [Iowa] thinking they could come back and run on us the next half and play with us.”
The Bears wasted little time in the second half putting their regional semifinal to bed and coasted to an 81-66 win over the No. 3 seed Iowa Hawkeyes.
While sophomore Nina Davis was a point of emphasis for the Iowa defense, senior Sune Agbuke cashed in on a night where the Hawkeyes risked leaving the 6-foot-4 center open.
“They were really crowding down non Nina. I think that was their game plan to keep her from getting the ball,” Agbuke said. “I was wide open and my teammates did a great job of getting me the ball, and it was going in.”
Agbuke said she experienced the best feeling getting to come through for her team. She scored a career-high 23 points in the Baylor win, while Nina Davis poured in 20 points.
Agbuke recorded a double-double as well. She tacked on 12 rebounds to complement her point total. However, Agbuke wasn’t the only Baylor Bear to have a big night in Oklahoma City.
Baylor guard Niya Johnson scored 10 points and added 16 assists. With her 16 assists, she surpassed former Baylor guard Odyssey Sims as the school’s all-time assists leader.
“That’s huge, being a leader in assists at Baylor and passing Odyssey Sims,” Johnson said. “She’s a great player. I’m just thankful for getting the opportunity. It’s a blessing.”
Beyond the offense numbers, though, Baylor held the Iowa Hawkeyes to 13 points below their season average.
The Hawkeyes shot a respectable 40.6 percent from the field, but Iowa only had seven shot opportunities from the free throw line to Baylor’s had 18.
“It wasn’t just playing defense,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “One of the ways for us to win the game was to keep them off the foul line and for us to get to the line, and we absolutely did. When they drove back we didn’t try to come down and hack, we just made them make shots over us.”
The Bears will now focus on the winner of No. 1 seed Notre Dame and No. 4 seed Stanford. Sunday’s victor will head to the Final Four in Tampa, Fla.