Odyssey Sims and Baylor are back in the regional finals after turning an expected thriller of a rematch into a rout.
Sims scored 25 points, including her 1,000th this season, to lead No. 2 seed Baylor to a 90-72 win over third-seeded Kentucky on Saturday in the Sweet 16.
Baylor’s sensational senior guard became only the second player to reach that milestone in a single season. She is 41 points behind Jackie Stiles’ record of 1,062 for one year set in 2001.
The last time Baylor and Kentucky met, they played one of the most exciting games in the history of women’s basketball. The Wildcats came away with a 133-130 four-overtime victory back in December.
This one fell far short of matching that thriller as Sims and Baylor put the game away by the half.
Now the Lady Bears (32-4) will face either Notre Dame or Oklahoma State in the regional final on Monday night.
The victory came a year after the Lady Bears were eliminated in the Sweet 16 by Louisville in one of the biggest upsets in women’s basketball. Baylor’s now back in the regional final for the fourth time in five years.
This might be the most unexpected of the trips as the Lady Bears lost two-time AP Player of the Year Brittney Griner and four other seniors to graduation. They still had Sims and coach Kim Mulkey has really developed a talented group of freshmen.
Sims got off to a slow start missing her first six shots before heating up by making 8 of her final 10 to finish the half. A steal and layup, a sequence she’s done many times in her stellar career, with 12:40 left in the first half got her to 1,000.
She followed it up with a long pass to Nina Davis for an easy score on the next play pumping her left arm after the freshman finished off the play. That was one of her seven assists on the day.
Davis finished with 20 points and eight rebounds while classmate Khadijiah Cave added a career-high 18 points and nine rebounds. Sophomore Niya Johnson had 11 points and 11 assists.
Kentucky hung around and only trailed 28-24 after Makayla Epps layup with 6:26 left in the half. That would be the last basket for the Wildcats until DeNesha Stallworth hit a layup with 9 seconds left. In between Sims took over. She scored eight points during a 17-2 run that blew the game open. Baylor led 49-32 at the half.
Kentucky had its chances but missed nine layups in the first half.
Stallworth scored 19 points to lead Kentucky (26-9).
Jennifer O’Neill, who had 43 points in the earlier game, had a rough afternoon. She missed all 11 of her shots and finished with just eight points — all on free throws. Kentucky could only get to within 12 in the second half.
The Wildcats made the regional finals in three of the past four seasons, including losing to UConn in the last two.
Kentucky had no real chance, shooting just 35 percent from the field, including going 3 for 12 from behind the 3-point line.