SOUTH BEND, Ind. — It’s hard to believe that with all that Baylor lost, Odyssey Sims has the Lady Bears one victory away from reaching the Final Four again.
Sims scored 25 points, including her 1,000th this season, to lead No. 2 seed Baylor to a 90-72 win over third-seeded Kentucky on Saturday in the Sweet 16.
The victory came a year after the Bears were eliminated in the regional semifinals by Louisville in one of the biggest upsets in women’s basketball history. Baylor’s now back in the regional final for the fourth time in five years.
This might be the most unexpected of the trips as Baylor lost two-time AP Player of the Year Brittney Griner and four other seniors.
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“With what we lost, people didn’t know what to expect,” Baylor senior Makenzie Robertson said. “That game was motivation to prove people wrong. It means the world to get this far.”
Sims has been the key. She became only the second player to reach that milestone in a single season. She is 41 points behind Jackie Stiles’ record of 1,062 for one year set in 2001.
Baylor’s sensational senior guard had 47 points the last time the Bears and Wildcats played. That was one of the most exciting games in the history of women’s basketball. The Wildcats came away with a 133-130 four-overtime victory back in December.
This one fell far short of matching that thriller as Sims and Baylor put the game away by the half.
“You see how much we improved since the last time we played Kentucky,” Baylor coach Mulkey said. “We have two freshmen posts who almost finished with a double-double.”
Nina Davis finished with 20 points and eight rebounds while classmate Khadijiah Cave added a career-high 18 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Niya Johnson had 11 points and 11 assists.
Now the Bears (32-4) will face Notre Dame in the regional final on Monday night.
DeNesha Stallworth scored 19 points to lead Kentucky (26-9).
Notre Dame 89, Oklahoma State 72
Natalie Achonwa gave the home fans plenty to cheer about.
The senior forward helped Notre Dame race out to a 14-0 lead and cruise to an easy win, ending Oklahoma State’s hopes of winning its first NCAA tournament semifinal regional game.
Achonwa finished with 23 points, a career-high five blocked shots and two steals in the victory.
The most impressive of Achonwa’s six assists was a behind-the-back pass around the back of an Oklahoma State defender for an easy basket inside by Madison Cable to give the Irish a 40-24 lead.
Notre Dame (35-0) is a victory away from its fourth straight Final Four berth, while the Cowgirls (25-9) fell to 0-3 in regional semifinals.