NCAA Women’s Dallas Regional Presents Preview of 2017 NCAA Women’s Final Four

by BoCarter | Posted on Thursday, March 31st, 2016

Baylor and Oregon State’s NCAA Dallas Women’s Regional final at American Airlines Center on March 28 might have been more of a preview of the 2017 NCAA Women’s Final Four at the same location than some had realized.

It featured the No. 1 scoring defensive team nationally – OSU – against the No. 3 defensive scoring leader – BU – in a contest that left Lady Bears’ head coach Kim Mulkey looking for some answers after the Beavers edged Bay;or 60-57.

“First, I’m extremely proud of these young women and their accomplishments (36-2 record and No. 1 NCAA seed in postseason, 13- and 23-game winning streaks around a 52-45 loss at Oklahoma State and the setback to the Beavers),” Mulkey said. “We just got off to a bad start and then spent the whole game trying to catch up. We forced 19 turnovers but didn’t respond at the other end many times after we had a stop.

“After watching a bunch of tape on Oregon State,” she added, “I’m still trying to figure out that defense. They are quick and big, and they take away a lot of things other teams have tried to run offensively.”

And ironically, Baylor limited OSU standout Jamie Weisner (coming off a season-best 38 points in a 83-71 Round of 16 win on March 28 over DePaul) to 16 points. It was an 18-point performance from point guard Sydney Wiese and 10 points (with a pair of key three-pointers) by infrequently-shooting guard Gabriella Hanson (primarily a defensive specialist for coach Scott Rueck’s crew) that spelled part of the difference in the three-point loss.

“We just didn’t make free throws either,” Mulkey noted after the narrow defeat. “When you go 6-for-14 at the line, you aren’t going to win many games. We cannot miss eight free throws and win any game – much less against a team like Oregon State. They (OSU) were 15-for-18, and they really hit some big free throws down the stretch. Plus, they showed patience and used the shot clock and scored with just a few seconds left before 30 several times.

“We weren’t able to get our fast break going,” she continued, “and credit Oregon State with good hustle and defense in that area. They are an older team with a lot of juniors and seniors, and their poise showed when they needed it. We tried everything we could to get back into the game, but it was a physical game, and we just got that one lead (52-51) late in the game. After that we didn’t make shots enough.”

Oregon State’s Rueck was ecstatic about getting a Beavers’ squad, which was 10-21 four seasons ago before making three consecutive NCAA appearances and their first-ever Final Four trip, into the national semifinals against rugged UConn (on a 73-game winning streak and seeking a NCAA-women’s-record fourth consecutive crown) next week in Indianapolis, Ind.

“This is just awesome,” he began. “To win a game like this against a team like Baylor in a tough environment is a credit to this team and program. Baylor has an incredible team, and hats off to them. I have the utmost respect for coach Mulkey and the way she runs her program.

“I am the happiest and proudest coach in American after this win,” he beamed.

Besides keeping Baylor away from attempting three-point shots (BU was 1-for-5 as a team) and virtually shutting down Lady Bears fast break attempts, the Beavers held Big 12 Player of the Year Alexis Johnson to 19 points after she had back-to-back 30-point games against Auburn and Florida State.

BU’s two leading scorers – Jones and Niya Johnson – were a combined 10-for-27 from the field and converted just one of four free throw attempts in the rugged contest.

Baylor, which fell in the NCAA quarterfinals for the third year in succession, wore bracelets throughout the season with “Eight is Not Enough” and walloped Florida State (a 74-55 winner at Texas A&M five days earlier) 78-58 on March 26 in the opening round of the Dallas Regional behind Jones’ 30 points and a dominating defense.

The slow start was critical for the OSU victory in the regional finals, though, as the Beavers hit five of their seven three-pointers in the first half to build a 34-25 lead to hold off repeated Baylor runs in the final half. OSU also outrebounded Baylor 39-33 behind a game-best 12 boards from 6-6 center Ruth Hamblin and held the lead for all but 8:26 of the hard-fought encounter.

While BU headed back to Waco with some “what ifs” still cropping up, the Beavers took a quick trip to Six Flags over Texas on March 27 and then headed back to Corvallis, Ore., for some quick class time and packing for another weekend trek to Indy and the NCAA Women’s Basketball semifinals.

Some Quick NCAA Basketball Notes:
OSU, Washington and Syracuse join veteran competitor UConn in the 2016 Women’s Final Four, and all but the Huskies are first-time participants. The Huskies are playing in their 17th women’s Final Four and are seekina NCAA-best 11th national crown…Two of the men’s Final Four contests at NRG Stadium in Houston are universities affiliated with churches – Syracuse (Methodist) and Villanova (Roman Catholic). Private schools have captured seven championships since Georgetown (Roman Catholic) captured the 1983 trophy…North Carolina is making a NCAA-record 19th trip to the men’s Final Four while Syracuse (sixth), Oklahoma (fifth) and Villanova (fourth) follow in appearance order.
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