Women's Basketball

Baylor, Oregon State battle with Final Four in sight

Baylor guard Niya Johnson (2) celebrates a foul as Florida State guard Brittany Brown (12) looks on in the Lady Bears’ 78-58 win on Saturday.
Baylor guard Niya Johnson (2) celebrates a foul as Florida State guard Brittany Brown (12) looks on in the Lady Bears’ 78-58 win on Saturday. AP

Three years ago, Baylor entered the women’s NCAA Tournament as the overall No. 1 seed and was led by All-American Brittney Griner.

Niya Johnson, Alexis Prince and Kristina Higgins were freshmen.

Predicted by many to win their second straight national championship, the Lady Bears were upset by fifth-seeded Louisville 82-81 in the Sweet 16.

Come Monday, all Kim Mulkey wants is for those three players to reach a Final Four.

“I want to get a Final Four so bad for Niya. I just want those kids to go,” the Baylor coach said. “Their freshman year, Niya, Prince, Kristina — that was Griner’s senior year and everybody thought we were going that year and we didn’t get to go, and you just hope and wish things can happen for them.”

With a Final Four spot on the line, Baylor (36-1) takes on Oregon State (31-4) at 8 p.m. Monday at American Airlines Center.

The Lady Bears are in their third straight Elite Eight, looking for their first Final Four trip since winning it all in 2012. Oregon State is in its first Elite Eight.

“You celebrate yesterday and now it’s time to focus again,” Johnson said. “We have a job to do. The job is not done yet.”

Baylor defeated Florida State 78-58 on Saturday behind 30 points from Nina Davis.

“I think we’re excited and ready to play. We’ve been here three years in a row, and we kind of know what the atmosphere is going to be like,” said Davis, who shot 12 of 18 on Saturday. “We just have to come out focused and be ready to play as if it’s our last game.”

For the Beavers, they defeated DePaul 83-71 on Saturday in their first Sweet 16 appearance since 1983. Senior Jamie Weisner scored a game-high 38 points on 14-of-20 shooting, including 7 of 10 on 3-point attempts, and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Senior Ruth Hamblin, a 6-foot-6 senior, added 13 points, nine rebounds and three blocks.

“[Hamblin] is big, first of all, and because of her size, she is a difficult matchup for a lot of teams,” Mulkey said. “I feel like we match up well with her because we’re big.”

On the season, Weisner averages a team-high 17.6 points per game while Hamblin chips in 11.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.4 blocks a game.

“Just an outstanding team. Just a team that shares the basketball, a team that knows how to win,” Mulkey said. “A team that understands its strengths and weaknesses, a very well-coached team. Just fun to watch.”

1. Baylor vs. 2. Oregon State

8 p.m. Monday, Dallas, ESPN

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