OKLAHOMA CITY — Baylor shut down the lane.
In their 97-63 win in the Sweet 16 Friday, the Lady Bears outscored Louisville, 46-16, in the paint.
“We just took what the defense gave us,” sophomore Kalani Brown said. “I was able to get some passes to Nina. Nina was wide open. If they're collapsing on us, we just go to the next option. I think that's what we did. Guarded shots, opened up the paint a little bit so we could score. We offensive rebounded, got put-backs. Just did the dirty work today. It was split between all posts. We all did well.”
Any good look the Cardinals got inside came off a drive for the most part.
And Louisville drove to the basket multiple times. But Baylor was there to get the stop either with help-side defense or a block.
The Lady Bears finished with six rejections on the night, led by Brown with three.
Passing their board exams
Louisville had a reputation for being tough on the boards.
Brown mentioned it the day before the game: Sure, Louisville isn’t as big as Baylor but the Cardinals know how to fight and use that extra effort to secure another rebound or two.
Nevertheless, the Lady Bears outrebounded Louisville, 52-36.
Baylor has now outrebounded its opponents in the first three rounds of the NCAA Tournament by an average margin of 22.7.
Beatrice Mompremier and Brown pulled down 13 and 12 rebounds respectively.
That gave the duo a double-double on the night with 14 and 12 points each.
No more looking back
Even after the game ended, the Baylor-Louisville game in 2013 kept emerging in conversation.
When Baylor lost to Louisville four years ago, the Lady Bears had only five bench points.
In Friday’s win, the Baylor bench put up 34.
“I think they're deeper is what it is,” Jeff Walz said. “I don't see anybody on the team that's the caliber of Brittney Griner. I'm not sure there's going to be. I think she's a once-in-a-lifetime player to come through. Odyssey Sims was pretty darn good, too. I think once you get into five, six, seven and eight, I think five, six, seven and eight on this year's ballclub, you have to guard 'em all.
"There's only one or two kids that I thought on the roster, when they got into the game, we were going to try to make 'em shoot and score.”
Top-seeded Baylor, with its win over Louisville, advances to take on No. 2 seed Mississippi State.
That game is slated to tip off at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday.
“I'm familiar with Vic (Schaefer) and his style of defense, because he was at A&M for so many years with Gary Blair, and that's kind of what they did,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “They play in a conference where they've seen the bigs before in South Carolina. They're big themselves. It’s going to make for a great Elite Eight game.”
Mississippi State won its Sweet 16 matchup against Washington, 75-64.
The Bulldogs were led by 6-foot-7 post Teaira McCowan who finished with 16 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks.
Kelsey Plum, the leading scorer in women’s college basketball history, went off for 29 points in the loss for Washington.
While the Huskies didn’t have the size to battle Mississippi State inside, Baylor has plenty of it.
“I've actually played (McCowan) before, on the AAU circuit,” Brown said. “She's a big, strong post. If you let her bury you or get you deep, she'll punish you in there. I've got to be smart on defense, keep my hands high, meet her, run the floor. Just do what we've been doing, play our game. Also stay out of foul trouble, as well.”