Jessika Bradley gets her hand on the ball over Chattanooga's Kristen Spann during the first half.
March 18, 2007
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The Baylor Lady Bears don't know what it's like to lose early in the NCAA tournament. Jessica Morrow kept them from finding out.
Morrow scored 13 points and led the decisive run, and Baylor nearly blew a big lead before pulling away from Chattanooga 68-55 on Sunday in the first round of the Fresno Regional.
"Now, we don't get rattled, we keep our composure and know how to play through it when teams make their run at us," Morrow said.
This time, the 2005 national champions will play fourth-seeded North Carolina State in the Wolfpack's hometown, and one of the main storylines in the tournament is Hall of Fame coach Kay Yow's return after two months away to fight cancer.
"We understand it's going to be a tremendous challenge for us, yet at the same time it's quite an opportunity for me as a young coach in this profession to coach against Kay Yow," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
"We were tentative and they had us on our heels," Mocs coach Wes Moore said. "For them to fight back and cut it to one point shows a lot of character."
The Mocs clawed back in the second half, pulling to 45-44 with about 10 minutes left on Laura Hall's 3-pointer from the key.
"We had no choice - we had to do it," Chattanooga's Alex Anderson said. "We didn't want to go home. We had to fight and play."
"Now, we don't get rattled, we keep our composure and know how to play through it when teams make their run at us."
But seconds later, Morrow countered with a 3 of her own to start a 19-7 run that put Baylor comfortably ahead to stay. She had seven points during the Lady Bears' key spurt.
"I knew we needed a bucket, and it went in," Morrow said.
Anderson, the Southern Conference player of the year and tournament MVP, had 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead Chattanooga (25-8). But she made just seven of her 23 shots and credited Baylor's defense for stifling her.
"They're great post players, and they did a great job," Anderson said.
Brooke Hand added 14 points for the Mocs, whose seven-game winning streak was snapped. They had won 14 of 15 entering the tournament, but fell to 1-8 in NCAA tournament play with their lone victory coming two years ago when they upset Rutgers.
Baylor went on a 14-2 run late in the first half that gave the Lady Bears a 14-point lead and what seemed like plenty of breathing room before the Mocs rallied in the second half.
This was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Baylor - only two current Lady Bears played in their victory over Michigan State for the national title two years ago. Instead, the Bears placed third in the Big 12 and reached the tournament for the fourth straight year and sixth time in school history.
"Everybody you play thinks that's the national championship team, and they're not," Mulkey said. "You're going to get everybody's best effort, and I feel this team has had to fight through the other team's extra effort. This bunch has done more than I could have expected them to do."