DENVER — Baylor fans stood loud and proud after watching the Lady Bears defeat Stanford, 59-47, in the national semifinals Sunday night at the Pepsi Center.
Not even a drastic change in the weather, including some snow, kept the Baylor faithful from enjoying Monday around the city.
From a downtown pep rally to gatherings at Baylor’s official meeting restaurant — Brothers’ Bar and Grill — and even at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Lady Bears fans proudly sported their green and gold, even if it was obscured by a few layers of warm clothing.
Sunday’s unseasonably high temperature hit 85 degrees. It fell as low as 32 on Monday morning, with a few snowflakes falling throughout the afternoon.
Some fans spent the day discussing Baylor’s tense semifinal victory — “a little clunky,” John Arnold, of Wylie, called it — while others looked forward to another game against Notre Dame, whom the Lady Bears defeated by 13 last November.
Notre Dame was an 83-75 overtime winner against Connecticut in the other semifinal Sunday.
Several Baylor students took advantage of a free ticket offer to cheer on the Lady Bears, whose national championship tilt against the Fighting Irish tips off at 7:30 p.m.
Some were thrilled to see the best four teams in women’s college basketball, and a few raised their voices for friends on the team and others.
Sophomore Heather Wooden, of St. Louis, Mo., got the biggest kick from snapping a photo with Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin, who took in the game after an interview with the ESPN crew.
Daisha Hoover, a Baylor freshman from Austin, was there to cheer for her friend on the team, Mariah Chandler, who is redshirting this season to preserve a year of eligibility.
Andrea Garza, a Baylor sophomore who graduated from Midway High School, was happy to see fellow ex-Pantherette Makenzie Robertson make it to the final.
But all the students were thankful for the 100 free tickets Baylor made available to students through a lottery. Winners not only got tickets, but free bus rides from Waco to Denver and free lodging.
“I was really surprised when they said it was all for free, and that (earning a ticket) was based off of game attendance,” said junior Adrian Parr, of Longview. “Without a ticket, there was not a chance for me to come here.”
The group sat a good distance from the court Sunday, but made sure everyone knew their school with a few hearty “Sic ’em, Bears” chants, a choreographed dance and timely displays of their “unfinished business” signs.
They weren’t the only Baylor fans packing “The Can,” as the Pepsi Center has been dubbed.
Margie Hays, of New Jersey, and Mary Belle Tutea, of Louisiana, bought tickets well in advance of the NCAA tournament, figuring they were going to get a chance to see their alma mater play in the Final Four.
And after watching most of Notre Dame’s victory against Connecticut and all of the Lady Bears’ win, the pair were certain of tonight’s result.
“If we beat Stanford, we can beat Notre Dame,” Tutea said.
Their confidence is shared by the Baylor faithful. Bryan Tidmore, of Waco, expected a “blowout like in 2005,” while others weren’t quite as expectant of such a one-sided victory.
Baylor beat Michigan State, 84-62, in 2005 to win its first women’s basketball national championship.
Jason Stewart, who owns and operates a Baylor online message board, www.BaylorFans.com, said the rematch between Notre Dame and Baylor likely would be much closer than the first meeting — a 94-81 Baylor victory Nov. 20.
“That was so early in the season. They both have a lot more experience playing each other now,” he said.
“They’ve had a lot more time to watch Brittney (Griner), too,” Cindy Stewart added.
The only scenario for a Baylor loss would involve foul trouble and cold shooting by the Lady Bears, Gatesville’s Dondi Allison said.
“I feel confident, but coming out with a cold start and a lid on the basket wouldn’t be good,” she said.
But Lady Bears fans at Sunday’s semifinal made it clear they’re more concerned about the score at the end of the game. A chant rang out after the victory: “Thirty-nine and 0.”
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