No. 6 Michigan kept in it with No. 2 Baylor up until the very end, but it's the Bears moving ahead to another Elite Eight berth with a thrilling 78-75 overtime win in the Sweet 16. Baylor will play No. 1 Connecticut in the River Walk region.
The Wolverines matched their first-half output of 23 points in the fourth quarter alone to force overtime. After not leading at all in the contest they tied it on a layup by Naz Hillmon with 17 seconds in regulation and took their first lead on a jumper by Akienreh Johnson within the first minute of overtime.
Baylor's NaLyssa Smith, a finalist for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year award, tied a tournament record for most made field goals without a miss, going 11-for-11 from the field. She scored a game-high 24 points with three rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Baylor wins it in OT
The turning point in overtime came with about 1:15 remaining and in typical Bears defensive fashion. Baylor turned the ball over with a poor pass through the baseline, giving Michigan an opportunity to take a late lead. Instead the Wolverines turned it over themselves. DiJonai Carrington stepped in front of a pass on the perimeter and took it the distance for an easy layup that made it 75-73.
Michigan was within one, 76-75, with 17 seconds left in overtime on a quick jumper by Leigha Brown. Baylor advanced the ball and moved it around, finally getting a wide-open Moon Ursin under the basket to push the lead to three. It left 10 seconds for Michigan to work with, but the Wolverines couldn't get a proper final possession. Akienreh Johnson threw it up from around midcourt with plenty of time left. It appeared she was about to travel.
Baylor attempted to rebound the shot, but stepped out of bounds and gave Michigan one last chance back. Brown's deep contested 3-point attempt with less than a second on the clock fell short.
Carrington, a transfer from Stanford, scored six points in overtime. She hit a 3-pointer on an assist by Didi Richards that gave Baylor a one-point lead back with 2:53. Smith hit a jumper to push it to 73-70, though it was equaled out by and and-1 by Danielle Rauch. Carrington answered with her layup that Michigan couldn't come back from. She had 19 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists off the bench.
Ursin scored 20, including a free throw and the final layup that put the game out of reach. She added five rebounds and four assists. Didi Richards contributed eight rebound and nine assists.
Michigan forces OT with late open look
Michigan hadn't led all game and forced overtime with an easy, wide-open look under the basket by Naz Hillmon. The Wolverines took their first lead in overtime on a Johnson 3-pointer during a back-and-forth five minutes.
Baylor led by as many as 12 points and kept the lead by a few possessions throughout. It was 29-23 in the Bears favor at halftime and 47-40 after three quarters.
Hillmon scored 16 points on 7-for-10 shooting. She added seven rebounds, one assist and one steal. Leigha Brown continued her strong tournament showing with a team-best 23 points, seven rebounds, two steals and an assist. Johnson added 14 and was 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
The teams matched up well in a game many were surprised Michigan could hang in. Baylor made the few extra baskets and locked down defensively late both in regulation and in overtime to avoid the upset.
Baylor vs. UConn in regional final
Baylor's game with UConn was canceled earlier this year after Kim Mulkey tested positive for COVID-19. The Huskies and Bears have had somewhat of a budding rivalry in recent seasons, with the Bears winning the last two. They won by nearly 20 points in the January 2020 contest, though the Huskies roster looks very different than it did then.
This is the regional final most wanted and believed would happen when the brackets came out. The reigning champion Bears have a good chance at taking down UConn with their No. 2 defensive rating, per Her Hoop Stats. They have experienced senior players on the roster who have matched up against the Huskies before, whereas UConn is a squad with seven freshmen. UConn shot worse than 29% overall the last two times the sides met.
UConn advanced to its 15th consecutive Elite Eight in the first game of the day on ABC. The 92-72 win against No. 5 Iowa was a full team effort led by Christyn Williams, who had 27 points. Paige Bueckers and Evina Westbrook were close to triple-doubles. The Huskies are going for a 13th consecutive berth in the Final Four.
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