Hosting NCAA tournament action for the first time since 2002, the Baylor Lady Bears took advantage of a great home crowd to win twice and advance to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year and the sixth time in eight seasons.
Head coach Kim Mulkey’s squad opened Sunday night with a 66-30 win over No. 16 seed Prairie View A&M, then followed that up Tuesday with an 82-68 victory vs. No. 9 seed West Virginia. Brittney Griner was the headliner last night, notching 30 points, eight blocks, four rebounds and four assists in just 31 minutes. (See photos from the first two rounds here, and a video wrapup of each game here.
Playing in her final game at the Ferrell Center, senior Melissa Jones — still playing with virtually no vision in her right eye — had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists vs. WVU. In Jones’ four years at Baylor, the Lady Bears were an impressive 66-5 at the Ferrell Center — thanks in large part to MJ, who Mulkey has called “Baylor’s glue.” Even in such an exciting game, perhaps the largest cheer Tuesday night from the Baylor faithful came late in the game when Jones was subbed out and left the floor for the final time.
That crowd was one of the best in the nation, as Baylor fans again turned out in large numbers. The Ferrell Center crowd was tops in the nation for the first round (beating out regionals in UConn, Tennessee, etc.), and Waco finished No. 2 for the first two rounds, behind only the Knoxville Regional. The 16,804 fans who attended the Waco Regional more than doubled the total attendance at 10 of the other 15 regionals.
Baylor now moves on to face No. 5 seed Green Bay, the Horizon League champs, in the Sweet 16. (Get your BU Sweet 16 gear here!) The Lady Bears and Phoenix tip Sunday at 6 p.m. CT at American Airlines Center in Dallas, televised on ESPN2. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
The Baylor Sports Network will be hosting a series of events this week for Baylor fans, beginning with a send-off from the Whetsel Practice Facility Friday at 4 p.m. In Dallas, the team hotel (the Adolphus) will be the site of several team rallies: a Sweet 16 sendoff Sunday at 4:30, a postgame rally that night, an off-day rally Monday at 8:30 p.m., and then pregame (6:30 p.m.) and postgame rallies Tuesday around the Elite Eight should Baylor win on Sunday. For more info, visit the Sports Network’s website.
Sic ’em, Lady Bears!