Not enough for Final Four: Lady Bears season review

Photo credit: Sarah Pyo

Head coach Kim Mulkey and her players all recited their mantra over and over throughout the season: “Eight is not enough.” But in the end, the Lady Bears did not have enough to get past the Elite Eight on Monday.

For the third straight season, the the Lady Bears were one game shy of the the Final Four.

However, before the heartbreak, the Lady Bears (36-2) started their season off strong, although hitting bumps along the way.

The Lady Bears welcomed freshmen Alexandria Gulley, Justis Szczepanski, Kalani Brown, Alyssa Dry, and Beatrice Mompremier.

Junior Alexis Jones would also get to see action for the first time since transferring from Duke University.

With a young team and several veteran players to guide the way, the Lady Bears were well-suited to make a deep run late in the season.

The Lady Bears cruised past their first two exhibition games and went on to win the Preseason WNIT at the Ferrell Center, the Junkanoo Jam in Freeport, Bahamas, and the Florida Sunshine Classic in Winter Park, Fla.

However, all momentum was halted in Stillwater, Okla., where the Lady Bears faced Oklahoma State in their conference opener. With senior guard Niya Johnson out, the Lady Bears fell short, 52-45, and were given their first loss of the season.

With a sour start to conference play, the Lady Bears knew they would have to win 17-straight to win the Big 12 conference. A lofty task, but one they bravely faced.

The team rallied behind the idea of taking it one game at a time. The Lady Bears bounced back at home the next game against Oklahoma to give them their first conference win and never looked back.

The Lady Bears did the unthinkable, winning 17 straight games to take home the Big 12 title, remaining undefeated at home.

Going into the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship with all the momentum, the Lady Bears easily claimed the Big 12 tournament title.

With Big 12 championship title under their belt, the Lady Bears were given a No. 1 seed going into the NCAA tournament.

Cruising past the first two rounds at home against No. 16 seed Idaho and No. 9 seed Auburn, the Lady Bears headed to Dallas to take on the fifth-seeded Florida State team.

Junior forward Nina Davis led the way, scoring 30 points. The Lady Bears shot past the Seminoles 78-58, to claim a spot in the Elite Eight.

With one goal in mind, that “Eight is not enough,” the Lady Bears would have to pass one last test to carry out their goal.

The No. 2 seed Oregon State Beavers ended up being the only wall between the Lady Bears and their season goal.

Oregon State gave Baylor a taste of its own medicine, using size and three-point shooting to smother the Lady Bears in the first half.

In a rare place of being down going into the half, the Lady Bears battled back to regain the lead, but it was not enough in the end.

The Beavers hit clutch shots when it mattered, giving the Lady Bears their third straight loss in the Elite Eight, 60-57.

“It’s been a great season, you know. It’s been a long one,” Davis said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team. We didn’t reach our goal of making it to the Final Four, but a lot of teams don’t make it to the Elite Eight. It was only 80 teams, and we was one of those, and we will never take that for granted. We are going to get back in the gym and get over this.”

While the season has come to an end and goodbyes were said to seniors Niya Johnson, Chardonae Fuqua’ and Kristina Higgins, they left their marks on the program, and instilled wisdom in the younger players as the program moves forward.

“Think about the three seniors in the locker room who you hurt for the most because those three are the epitome of what all student-athletes should be,” Mulkey said. “They set the tone and set the bar high in practice. That’s who you hurt for.”