LEXINGTON, Ky. — Aggressive rebounding and timely baskets certainly helped sixth-seeded Oregon State against No. 2 seed Baylor.
More impressive was the Beavers’ poise throughout as they handed the Lady Bears their first loss since November and earned a second Elite Eight appearance in three seasons.
Marie Gulich had 26 points, Kat Tudor added 16 and Oregon State shot 58 percent in the second half to upset Baylor 72-67 on Friday night in the women’s NCAA Tournament Lexington Region semifinal. The Beavers will face Louisville on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four.
Two years after upsetting Baylor in the Dallas Region final, Oregon State (26-7) followed up with a steady performance to improve to 4-0 against Baylor while ending its 30-game winning streak. The Beavers had to withstand nine consecutive points by Alexis Morris that got the Lady Bears (33-2) to 69-67 with 42 seconds remaining before Katie McWilliams’ left-corner 3-pointer 30 seconds later provided a five-point edge.
That pivotal shot typified a night in which OSU stuck with the game plan and didn’t flinch for the brief times it trailed.
“When you play a team like Baylor, part of the tempo issue is you can’t turn it over,” Beavers coach Scott Rueck said. “You can’t hand them possessions by either a turnover or taking a quick, poor shot.
“I thought we took a couple early in the first quarter, but overall they just know how to win, and that leads to possessions like that against a great defense and a great offense.”
Morris missed two 3s and Natalie Chou another in the final 10 seconds for Baylor, which shot just 39 percent and was edged 38-37 on the glass.
Gulich made 10 of 17 from the field and had nine rebounds for OSU, which shot 45 percent in winning for the 10 time in 11 contests. Tudor was 5 of 10 shooting and 4 of 8 from long range as the Beavers made 9 of 20 from behind the arc.
Kalani Brown had 19 points and 10 rebounds for Baylor, which was outscored in all but the second quarter in losing for the first time since falling 68-62 at UCLA in November.
Oregon State: The Beavers weren’t intimidated by Baylor’s winning streak or size, working around the latter with crisp passing for good looks and controlling the boards throughout. Gulich thrived in both cases, hitting mid-range shots and the boards. Perimeter shooting was key in spreading Baylor’s defense as Tudor and Corosdale combined for seven 3-pointers on 13 attempts. McWilliams’ late 3 was huge.
“It adjusted as the game went on,” Tudor said of the shooting strategy. “Everybody found shooters so great today and it just worked out.”
Baylor: Just as the young Lady Bears seemed to find their edge and rhythm with the 6-foot-7 Brown, they steadily fell apart after halftime and never found consistency other than a late run keyed by Morris. Making just 3 of 17 from long range didn’t help, but being outrebounded after entering with a plus-26.5 margin after two NCAA contests was the difference for a team that had been dominant since early November. Lauren Cox had 15 points before fouling out, while Morris added 14 points and Dekeiya Cohen 12.
“When you get to this level, it’s just the nature of the business,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “Whoever hits shots, makes shots, executes, does what you have to do to win is going to win. We couldn’t score the basketball.”
Gulich’s scoring effort comes just two games after she posted 29 points in a first-round win over Western Kentucky, the second-highest output in an NCAA Tournament game in program history. Most importantly for the 6-5 German was outperforming Brown as OSU needed.
“Our scouting report said just attack her, and that was my plan today,” Gulich said. “I think I just used my quickness really well against her. She’s really tall and she’s strong, but I think I could get around her and have the shots over her. Defensively, my goal was just to keep her off the block, to take away the left hand and not make it easy on her.”
Oregon State will face Louisville on Sunday in the regional championship. Louisville beat Stanford 86-59 in the second game.