DALLAS – Baylor players have been wearing those green “Eight Is Not Enough” bracelets so long that Nina Davis figures she probably has a permanent mark on her arm.
Those rubbery bands are a reminder of where the Lady Bears ended their last two seasons – in a women’s NCAA tournament regional final – and motivation to go further this season. They have made it to the Elite Eight for the third year in a row, this time against Pac-12 champion Oregon State on Monday night.
“The job is not done yet,” said point guard Niya Johnson, one of three Baylor seniors with their last shot at getting to a Final Four after losses to Notre Dame at this point in each of the past two years.
“I’m definitely ready for the opportunity to get rid of it tomorrow,” Davis said about the bracelets they have worn since last summer.
As the No. 1 seed in the Dallas Regional, Big 12 champion Baylor (36-1) is playing only about 100 miles from its Waco campus. The Lady Bears are in the same NBA arena where they lost a regional final five years ago against Texas A&M, the eventual national champion they beat three previous times that season.
The Big 12 champion Lady Bears are in their seventh regional final, and have been to three Final Fours under coach Kim Mulkey. Second-seeded Oregon State (31-4) had never gotten this deep in the NCAA tournament.
“They have a confidence and they know what at that to expect, and they have been there and they’ve played the biggest stage,” said Oregon State guard Jamie Weisner, a Spokane native and Clarkston High graduate. “But I think we have confidence, too. We’re going places we’ve never been before, and that alone is a lot of confidence we can ride on.”
Weisner, who had career highs with 38 points and seven 3-pointers in the Beavers’ Sweet 16 win over DePaul, is among a senior group that as freshmen won only 10 games and endured a 10-game Pac-12 losing streak.
“Seems like a lifetime ago in some regards because we’ve come so far and developed the program so far since then,” 6-foot-6 senior center Ruth Hamblin said. “But we have really experienced it all just climbing up this mountain and I think we’re excited for the next step.”
The Beavers are one win away from joining fellow Pac-12 team Washington in the Final Four. Oregon, under sixth-year coach Scott Rueck, won the conference tournament this year while sharing the regular-season title with Arizona State after winning it outright last season.
“I think everybody is watching each other closely,” Rueck said. “We would be lying if we didn’t say it was giving each other confidence watching each other succeed.”
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