Despite a flurry of three pointers from Oregon in the second half, the Baylor Bears are advancing to the seventh national championship game in program history after a 72-67 victory on Saturday night.
At the start of the final quarter, the Bears still seemed to be the team that was more in control as they quickly hit a bucket to extend their lead to four. But the Ducks responded, before Baylor extended their lead again. The turning point came when Baylor missed a jump shot and the Oregon’s Erin Boley tied the game at 61 with 7:05 left in the quarter. After that, the wheels seemed to come off for Baylor as they had an errant pass picked off, which Oregon turned into three points on the other end of the court, and then had a sloppy offensive possession before a timeout was called.
Even after the timeout, and retaking the lead for a brief moment, the Bears never really seemed to be able to retake control of the court. The Ducks moved the ball with ease against their defense, while Baylor’s offense seemed rushed. That led to a crucial turnover with a one point lead, which lead to a timeout by Oregon head coach Kelly Graves.
The Ducks had solved their three point issues from earlier as Satou Sabally hit a key three pointer to tie the game at 67 with 80 seconds left in the game. Both teams missed key shots, until Baylor’s Chloe Jackson hit a wide open jumper with 40 seconds left to give the Bears a two point lead. A missed jumper by Oregon, and a defensive rebound by Kalani Brown, forced Graves’ squad to foul. Baylor also fouled the Ducks to throw off their offensive timing, and it worked as Oregon took a pair of contested threes that missed.
The Bears went back to the charity stripe, where they hit one of three to give themselves a five point lead with 3.4 seconds left to ice the game. On the ensuing Oregon possession, the Ducks missed a three pointer as time expired.
In the early part of the third quarter Ionescu was the only player to score points for Oregon, while Baylor was spreading the ball around. As a result, Baylor went on a 12-4 run that gave them a commanding presence on the court; even after Sabally hit a three pointer to tie it, it never felt like the Bears had lost control. But that began to change when Ionescu was fouled by Didi Richards — her third, which sent her to the bench — and the Ducks took a 52-51 lead on the free throw.
The Ducks retook the lead, after Baylor tied it on a free throw, when Boley hit her fourth three pointer, and Oregon’s tenth of the game. Baylor responded by closing out the half with a pair of field goals to end the third quarter with a 56-55 lead.
One of the major highlights for Baylor from the second quarter came when Lauren Cox blocked Ionescu while she was driving to the hoop with just under five minutes left in the half.
Despite the offensive inconsistencies that persisted throughout quarter number two, Oregon’s defense remained aggressive and forced a couple of turnovers…including this brilliant pick and score from Cazorla.
While Oregon’s poor shooting continued, the aggressive defense kept the score close throughout the first half. Which meant the Ducks took a 34-33 lead to the half after Ionescu was fouled on a three pointer with less than ten seconds left on the game tying three pointer; the junior then hit the follow-up free throw to send the Ducks to the locker room with a one point lead.
Throughout the first quarter, the biggest issue for Oregon was taking somewhat open, somewhat contested three pointers that were often attempted before the bigs could get set under the hoop. Boley was the biggest offender as she attempted six threes during the first frame — she only made two of them. Meanwhile Baylor was calm and efficient on the offensive side of the court as they kept moving the ball until an open shot near the hoop became available. The only thing that kept the first quarter close was Oregon’s aggressive defense that forced five turnovers and helped contain Baylor’s lead to four at the end of the quarter.