Baylor women want to finish 2017 at Final Four in Dallas
DALLAS (AP) Nina Davis still has one more chance to get to the women's Final Four with Baylor. So does Alexis Jones.
They just didn't want to finish this season at the site of next year's Final Four.
All three of Davis' seasons at Baylor so far have ended with a loss in an NCAA Tournament regional final.
''Even after I leave college, one day, if I have kids, I'll tell my kids about the times I got stopped three times,'' said Davis, a three-time All-Big 12 player and a second-team All-American this season. ''I'm not going to say that we're going to get to the Final Four next year, but I'm not trying to be denied four times in a row.''
The 2017 Final Four will be played in Dallas, about 100 miles from their Waco campus and in the same NBA arena where the top-seeded Lady Bears (36-2) made their latest Elite Eight exit. They lost 60-57 to No. 2 seed Oregon State on Monday night.
''We just gotta keep pushing and take this loss as motivation,'' said Jones, the former Duke transfer who averaged 15 points and 4.2 rebounds in her Baylor debut as a junior.
While national assists leader Niya Johnson has played her last game for Baylor and won't experience a Final Four, the Lady Bears will return seven of their top eight scorers and add two more McDonald's All-Americans to the roster next season.
''The first thing is, when you think about the three seniors in the locker room you hurt for the most,'' coach Kim Mulkey said. ''Then you work your way down to all the returning players and make sure that they remember this moment, remember what they did good and bad in this game and get back to work and get better every year. I thought that the new players made us a better basketball team.''
Those new players were Jones and freshman posts Beatrice Mompremier (7.2 points, 6.1 rebounds per game) and Kalani Brown (9.3 points, 4.3 rebounds) - the two All-Americans who made their Baylor debuts this season. The incoming prep All-Americans are 6-foot-4 forward Lauren Cox, who is considered by many as the nation's top-ranked player, and 6-1 guard Natalie Chou.
''We have some good incoming freshmen, plus all the players returning,'' Davis said. ''We're going to come back strong next year.''
The last of Baylor's three Final Fours - all in Mulkey's 16 seasons - was during the 40-0 national championship in 2012. The Lady Bears were upset by Louisville in the Sweet 16 in 2013 before consecutive regional final losses to Notre Dame. Oregon State (32-4) was in its first regional final.
Baylor overcame a nine-point halftime deficit against the Beavers, but led only twice. The Lady Bears scored the game's first four points and their other lead was 51-50 on Davis' layup with just under 7 minutes left.
The game's only four ties came after that, but Jones and Johnson had turnovers on consecutive possessions in the final 1:28 when Baylor could have regained the lead. Jones had a turnaround jumper with 11 seconds left that rolled around the rim without going in before Oregon State added two free throws. Jones couldn't get open for another shot before Johnson missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
''It hurts. Not many teams are blessed to get this far. I have three more years to get a chance at it and keep working at it,'' Brown said. ''Right now it hurts. I'll tell you one thing, I will never forget this feeling. ... Next year we will try again.''
Eight will not be enough.