Oregon State, Baylor meet again in NCAA tourney

The Associated Press

The last time Baylor and Oregon State met, the Beavers notched a historic win for their program and left the Lady Bears feeling like they had missed an opportunity.

Baylor was playing just 95 miles from its campus in the Dallas Region final in 2016, but Oregon State stole the show. The Beavers claimed a 60-57 victory at American Airlines Center and celebrated their first trip to the Final Four.

After his team defeated Tennessee to reach the Sweet 16 on Sunday, Oregon State coach Scott Rueck referenced the 2016 win over Baylor as a milestone for the program.

Now Baylor (33-1), the No. 2 seed in the Lexington Region, will face No. 6 seed Oregon State (25-7) in the Sweet 16 on Friday night at Rupp Arena.

"Particularly in women's basketball you kind of see the same teams when you get to the Sweet 16 level," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "(Oregon State has) size, their offense is very difficult to defend. We didn't do a very good job of it two years ago and it's pretty much the same style of play."

However, even though it was just two years ago, most of the key players have changed for both teams.

Oregon State had four players in double figures in its Elite 8 win over Baylor, but none are still on the roster. Beavers junior point guard Katie McWilliams was a freshman then and played less than a minute.

Baylor 6-foot-7 center Kalani Brown will probably have the most vivid memories of the previous matchup with Oregon State. She scored 12 points, grabbed six rebounds and added a block and a steal in 19 minutes of action.

But Brown and the Lady Bears will see a different crew of Beavers this time.

Oregon State 6-5 center Marie Gulich will lead the charge in matching Baylor's size in the front court. Gulich averages a team-high 17.3 points and 9.2 rebounds. She's joined inside by 6-3 forward Taya Corosdale and 6-8 backup center Joanna Grymek.

In the back court, McWilliams has developed into a key cog in propelling the Beavers on the offensive end.

"She's the last one to force a shot," Rueck said. "That's been what's happened this year over the last month and a half really. Probably mid-January when she realized 'Ok, for us to be as good as we can be, I have to be very aggressive shooting the ball.' And she's hit huge shots in big moments for us all year."

Baylor has had to adjust its back court after senior point guard Kristy Wallace suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Lady Bears' regular-season finale versus West Virginia on Feb. 26. Freshman Alexis Morris stepped in and averaged 14.5 points and 5.0 assists in Baylor's two NCAA Tournament games to this point.

Oregon State's biggest challenge on defense could be slowing down Baylor's Brown, 6-4 forward Lauren Cox and 6-2 forward Dekeiya Cohen.

And then there's the fact that Baylor, which claimed national championships in 2005 and 2012, will be hungry to get back to the Final Four after losing in regional finals in four straight seasons.

"We've got to get over this Elite Eight hump and get to the Final Four," Cox said. "We celebrated after the game the second round, but the very next day we were back in the film room after practice focusing on the next game."

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