Lady Bears fall in Elite Eight; Bears cut down in Sweet 16
So, Baylor’s basketball season has come to an end. As we noted on Twitter, I guess we’ll have to be content with a Sweet 16, an Elite Eight, and two Big 12 titles.
The Lady Bears ran into the buzzsaw that is an undefeated Notre Dame team — in South Bend — on Monday night, falling 88-69. In what was expected to be a rebuilding year following the loss of five seniors (including the national player of the year), head coach Kim Mulkey’s squad instead won both the Big 12 regular season and tournament championships, finished 32-5, and actually went one round deeper in this year’s tournament than last year’s squad — making their fourth Elite Eight appearance in the last five years.
They were led, of course, by national player of the year finalist Odyssey Sims. The senior finished second in the nation in points per game, setting a Big 12 record at 28.5 points per game, and becoming only the second woman in Division I history to score 1,000 points in a season; Sims finished the year eight points shy of the NCAA record. She also leaves Baylor as the Lady Bears’ all-time leader in career 3-pointers and assists and among the top 5 in steals (2nd) and scoring (3rd). For her efforts, she has been named Big 12 Player of the Year, a unanimous AP All-American, and a finalist for three national player of the year awards (winners still TBA).
After a roller coaster of a season, the Baylor men won 26 games (third-most in program history) and reached their third Sweet 16 in five years (one of just 10 schools with such a run). Head coach Scott Drew’s squad started the season 12-1, then went 2-8 over the next month before finishing the year by winning 12 of their last 15.
The Bears, too, ran into a machine, losing to Wisconsin 69-52 in the Sweet 16. Baylor’s season has ended at the hands of the eventual national champion in four of its last seven NCAA appearances; with the Badgers now in the Final Four, that streak could well continue. The Bears now must say goodbye to two of the program’s top-20 career scorers in seniors Cory Jefferson and Brady Heslip; Jefferson finishes his career among the Bears’ top 10 in blocks (4th), double-doubles (4th), rebounds (9th) and field goal percentage (10th), while Heslip holds the Baylor career record for 3-point percentage and ranks second in 3-pointers made.
Here’s to the conclusion of another great year, and the anticipation of what lies ahead in 2014-15!
Sic ’em, Baylor basketball!