Bay­lor

Austin American-Statesman - - WOMEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT -

Bears (33-4), who haven’t been back to the Fi­nal Four since their 40-0 na­tional cham­pi­onship in 2012.

And now they won’t even be part of this week’s Fi­nal Four in Dal­las, only about 100 miles from their cam­pus in Waco and the one that Mulkey had been talk­ing about for more than two years.

“It doesn’t feel real right now,” said Alexis Prince, one of the se­niors.

“It’s a dis­ap­point­ment. Just sorry I couldn’t get (the se­niors) there,” said 6-foot-7 sopho­more for­ward Kalani Brown, who fin­ished with 27 points on 11-of-13 shoot­ing and had nine re­bounds Sun­day night.

Nina Davis was an AP All-Amer­i­can last sea­son and a three-time All-Big 12 pick, but she will leave Bay­lor with­out a Fi­nal Four trip and na­tional cham­pi­onship chance she re­ally wanted.

The four losses in the Elite Eight spanned Davis’ en­tire ca­reer. Same for Prince and Khadi­jiah Cave. Alexis Jones played in the last two, and was a red­shirt for a third, af­ter trans­fer­ring from Duke.

“I just hate it for them, be­cause they re­ally are Fi­nal Four-type kids,” said Mulkey, who has two na­tional ti­tles and three Fi­nal Fours in her 17 sea­sons at Bay­lor. “This was a Fi­nal Four-type team.”

When Mulkey men­tioned the 2017 Fi­nal Four dur­ing the early rounds of the 2015 NCAA Tour­na­ment, she knew who would be se­niors this sea­son — a class that be­came the first in school his­tory with all of them scor­ing at least 1,000 ca­reer points. Plus, Aus­tralian guard Kristy Wal­lace was fin­ish­ing her fresh­man sea­son.

The Lady Bears then also were await­ing the ar­rival of McDon­ald’s All-Amer­ica posts Brown and Beatrice Mom­premier, both now com­ing off steady sopho­more sea­sons.

“I think Kalani, from her fresh­man year to a sopho­more year, is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent pres­ence in the paint for us both of­fen­sively and de­fen­sively,” Mulkey said.

An­other pair of McDon­ald’s All-Amer­i­cans, post Lauren Cox and guard Natalie Chou, were fresh­men this sea­son.

Bay­lor has al­ready signed four stand­out guards for next sea­son. They in­clude the Ga­torade play­ers of the year from Texas (Alexis Mor­ris) and Louisiana (Cara Ursin).

Af­ter the Lady Bears won their first three NCAA Tour­na­ment games by mar­gins of 89, 40 and 34 points, Mis­sis­sippi State forced them into 17 turnovers that led to 20 points.

“We have all those bigs back. We have Cox and Beatrice and Kalani. They’re as good as any bigs in the coun­try,” Mulkey said. “But we have to fix this turnover prob­lem. We’ve got to fix, I guess you’d say, point guard play.”

ALONZO ADAMS

For­ward Kalani Brown (right) gives Bay­lor op­ti­mism for next year af­ter a steady sopho­more sea­son. Brown was a bright spot in the Elite Eight loss to Mis­sis­sippi State with 27 points on 11-of-13 shoot­ing, plus nine re­bounds.

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