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WACO (AP) – Nina Davis and the Baylor women are headed back to the Sweet 16, and a very familiar spot.
Davis and Alexis Prince both scored 16 points in their last home game, and the Lady Bears earned their ninth consecutive Sweet 16 trip with an 86-46 win over California on Monday night.
“We wanted to just leave our mark here,” said Davis, an undersized post player who became an AP All-American and a three-time All-Big 12 selection. “Just wanted my last game here to be a good one.”
After their 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament victory at home, including that record-setting 119-30 win over Texas Southern on Saturday, the top-seeded Lady Bears are headed to Oklahoma City to play Louisville in the Sweet 16 for the third time in nine years. The Cardinals won the first two matchups, including the last matching at Oklahoma City in 2013.
Baylor (32-3) took control with a 13-0 run in the second quarter, including freshman Natalie Chou hitting consecutive 3-pointers in a 17-second span during which coach Kim Mulkey emphatically pumped her fists. After a California timeout and then a missed shot, Prince hit a run-ending jumper that put Baylor up 35-16.
“Nat hit some key shots, and that was a huge momentum shifter,” sad Kristy Wallace, who had 10 points and nine assists.
Davis and Prince, among Baylor’s four seniors, also combined for 11 rebounds and 11 assists as the Lady Bears won their 12th consecutive NCAA Tournament home game. Baylor had 28 assists on its 34 made baskets.
Kristine Anigwe had 20 points and 11 rebounds for ninth-seeded California (20-14), which for the second time in five seasons lost a second-round NCAA Tournament game against the Big 12 champions on their home court.
“I think it was a huge step for us to get here, and not just to prove to people that we belonged in the tournament, but more taking a look forward,” said coach Lindsay Gottlieb, who had only one senior who played. “I think this is a group that can do some special things, and we needed this experience.”
There were six lead changes in the first 3 minutes of their game, including five baskets scored in a 45-second span. But Davis’ strong drive for a layup put the Lady Bears up 8-7, and started a 9-0 run.
California had a longer scoring drought in the second quarter, going 6 1/2 minutes between their only field goals of the quarter while Baylor put the crowd and its coach into a frenzy.
Wallace had the ball and moved to the right side, near Chou, and motioned the freshman to move to the other corner. A couple of passes later, Chou buried the long shot from in front of the Cal bench, and then on the next trip down the court hit a 3 from the right wing.
“We played a good team game on offense. We didn’t settle for just regular shots,” Wallace said. “We kind of looked to find some good shots, and yeah, we made them, so that was really great.”
GOING OUT TO CHEERS
With 3:28 left and Baylor up 82-40, Mulkey called timeout and brought the four seniors out of the game to a huge ovation. After the game, the four seniors — Davis, Prince, Alexis Jones and Khadijiah Cave — joined hands for a victory lap around the arena.
NOT REAL TROUBLE
Kalani Brown, Baylor’s 6-7 post player, got two fouls in the first 70 seconds of the game. That really didn’t slow down the home team. “They have like six 6-4 players … one went out, another one came in, took her spot and played hard. Another one came in, and played hard,” said Anigwe, Cal’s center.
California: The Golden Bears started the season by winning their first 13 games, a school record. They then went 6-13 against Pac-12 teams before a win over LSU in the first round of the NCAA. The Golden Bears have been to five NCAA Tournaments in six years under Gottlieb.
Baylor: The goal is to get to the Final Four in Dallas, which is about 100 miles from the Baylor campus. But the Lady Bears first have to win two games in Oklahoma City, where earlier this month they lost in the Big 12 Tournament championship game for the first time in seven years.
GIFT FOR GOTTLIEB
During shootaround earlier in the day, Mulkey presented a baby gift to Gottlieb, whose first child is due in early May. “That was really thoughtful,” Gottlieb said. “She said she has a place in her heart for moms in coaching.”
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