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Baylor Lady Bears vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs, NCAA WBB Elite Eight Game Preview and Game Thread

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Lady Bears take on the Bulldogs in NCAA WBB Elite Eight Matchup, 6:30 p.m. (CT), Chesapeake Energy Arena, Oklahoma City, OK

NCAA Womens Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Oklahoma City Regional-Baylor vs Louisville Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Lady Bears will meet No. 2 seed Mississippi State (32-4, 13-3) in the NCAA WBB Elight Eight today. Tip time is set for 6:30 p.m. (CT) on ESPN2 with Pam Ward (play-by-play) and Gale Goestenkors (analyst) on the call. Live audio is also available on the Baylor Sports Network, IMG College and ESPN 1660 AM in Waco. Rick May (play-by-play) and Lori Fogleman (analyst) will call the action.

Preview

Despite Baylor’s advantage in every statistical category, today’s game will come down to where the ball bounces and who wants the win most. Statistics mean nothing as Washington, the number 5 scoring offense in the nation can attest, having been beaten by Mississippi State in the Sweet Sixteen.

This will be a tough game for the Lady Bears. Baylor’s height advantage in 6’7” Kalani Brown is negated by Mississippi State’s 6’7” Teaira McCowan. The next tallest player on the court will be Mississippi State’s 6’5” Sr. Chinwe Okorie. Baylor’s experience level of having four seniors on the court is negated because Mississippi State also has four seniors. At the junior level, Baylor has only two juniors whereas Mississippi State once again has four.

Mississippi State’s depth runs as deep as Baylor’s as evidenced in their win over Washington where no one player played more than 31 minutes despite being down by 2 points at the end of the 3rd quarter. In that game, ten of the eleven Mississippi State players seeing minutes on the court added points on the board.

An undersized, under-recruited post player, Davis has seen the highs of Big 12 championships, All-Big 12 and All-America honors and four Elite Eight berths.

But the emotional scars she wears, along with the rest of Baylor's experienced players, stem from how each of the past three seasons have ended. In 2014, it was a loss on an undefeated Notre Dame team's home court. In 2015, it was a long-awaited rematch with the Fighting Irish in Oklahoma City that got away in the final minutes. Last year, it was a down-to-the-wire slugfest in Dallas that went Oregon State's way.

The only hole on Davis and the top-seeded Lady Bears' resume during that time is the lack of a Final Four trip, and they have another chance to clear the last remaining hurdle when they meet No. 2 seed Mississippi State at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

How Baylor deals with the emotions of being back in the Elite Eight for the fourth straight season could go a long way in determining its fate against the Bulldogs.

"I think it starts with the seniors," Davis said. "Us being here for four years now, we've been here, we've done it before. We for sure know we've been stopped here three years in a row, and we know you can't get too high for these moments and you can't get too low. It's our responsibility as leaders of the team to keep our team in check and let them know this is what we've been working for all year. We've been granted with another opportunity, and we've got to take advantage of it."

The Bulldogs are unburdened with Elite Eight shortcomings. After all, this is the first time they've been this far.

Tournament Central

Visit BU’s Tournament Central for video highlights, post game interviews, matchup, live updates and more.

About the Bulldogs

  • Vic Schaefer's squad claimed its first Elite Eight appearance with a 75-64 win against third-seeded Washington in Friday's region semifinal. Full story at Hail State dot com.

That victory added yet another accomplishment to a record-setting season that has seen MSU claim a program-best 32-4 overall record. The Bulldogs were paced in Friday's win by sophomore Teaira McCowan, who recorded a double-double with a career-best 26 points, 12 rebounds and a personal-high six blocks. The Brenham, Texas, native scored 20 of her points in the fourth quarter. Junior Victoria Vivians also added double figures with 13 points, while Blair Schaefer continued her stellar play in the NCAA Tournament with 10 points.

Baylor’s Juggernaut of Depth

Senior Nina Davis is ranked among Baylor's top 10 in nine different categories. She is second in starts (140), field goal percentage (57.0) and free throw attempts (787), third in free throws made (542), fourth in field goals made (910) and rebounding (1,052), fifth in scoring (2,365), sixth in field goal attempts (1,597) and tied for seventh in double-doubles (31). Amid her second season with the Lady Bears, redshirt senior Alexis Jones is second all-time in three-point field goal percentage (41.6), fourth in assist average (4.6), eighth in three-point field goals made (126) and 10th in three-point field goal attempts (303). With a career field goal percentage of 63.9, sophomore Kalani Brown (6’7”) leads all Baylor players. Senior Khadijiah Cave (6’3”) is fourth with a 56.7 career field goal percentage. Sophomore Beatrice Mompremier (6’4”) is sixth with a 53.2 career field goal percentage. Junior Kristy Wallace is eighth all-time with a 38.0 three-point field goal percentage. Redshirt senior Alexis Prince (6’2”) is sixth all-time with 359 three-point field goal attempts and eighth with 130 three-point field goals made. Freshman Lauren Cox (6’4”) is averaging 7.7 points and 4.2 boards in 13.2 minutes per contest. She earned the first start of her career against Winthrop on Dec. 15, 2016. Freshman Natalie Chou (6’1”) is averaging 4.4 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 14.0 minutes per game. Junior Dekeiya Cohen (6’2”) has seen action in 30 games this season and averaged 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds a contest.