Lady Bears dominate opening rounds, advance to Sweet 16

Junior guard Alexis Jones dribbles into the paint during the Lady Bears' game against Auburn in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Photo credit: Penelope Shirey

When the NCAA announced the Ferrell Center as one of the venues for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, it was clear the Lady Bears would be heavily favored to advance to the Sweet 16.

Baylor’s NCAA tournament campaign would first test the Lady Bears’ ability to maintain its superiority over lower caliber teams.

The Lady Bears entered the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 seed and cruised past the first two rounds to the Sweet Sixteen after decisive wins on Friday and Sunday.

In their first matchup, the Lady Bears (35-1) faced No. 16 seed Idaho (24-10) and dominated on both the defense and offensive ends of the floor.

“I think our bench has as much to do with it as anybody,” said head coach Kim Mulkey. “Kalani [Brown] and Kristy [Wallace] – good grief, I really don’t have a bench. I just can only play five at a time. It really does help when you have that much depth.”

Baylor shut down the Vandals from three-point range. Idaho, a one-dimensional team, had no response to the Lady Bears’ staunch defense. From the opening tip-off, Baylor’s superiority was evident.

“We didn’t want to be that team that was having to press in the fourth quarter just to get back in it,” said senior guard Niya Johnson.

With the Lady Bears going on a quick 14-0 run to go up 19-4, Idaho quickly tried to catch back up but missed eight straight shots to remain scoreless for four minutes.

As the Vandals were not making shots on their offensive end, the Lady Bears gave Idaho a taste of its own medicine. Baylor started to put the game out of reach with devastating three-pointers.

“When we started hitting the threes, they had to space out a little bit more, which opened up the inside for us bigs.”

Baylor looked to continue with its momentum against the No. 9 seed Auburn (20-13), who beat No. 8 seed St. Johns in the first round.

The Tigers ran an on-and-off full court press defense for almost the full 40 minutes of regulation against Baylor.

“We haven’t played a team that plays for a full 40 minutes, so it was really important for us to really just take care of the ball and make sure we were making the right passes,” said junior guard Alexis Jones.

The Lady Bears’ game plan worked without flaw as they continued to find Davis open as she went in route to score 30 points.

“Once we got into the game today, exactly what we worked on, it played out exactly how we played it in practice,” Davis said. “We just kept attacking, and it kept working all night.”

With the Lady Bears taking the win 84-52, they find themselves one step closer to a national championship as they take on fifth-seeded Florida State on Saturday in the Sweet Sixteen at the American Airlines Arena in Dallas.

“We want to go farther than [the Sweet 16], so we’re just going to take it as another game and know that it’s going to be another challenge in our way to getting to the Final Four,” Davis said.