By: Joe Dillard Jr.
Headline Photo Credit: NCAA
#1 UConn vs #2 Baylor
The game of the year was postponed due to Covid-19 protocols and although it’s not the title game, Baylor versus UConn was no question a must-see game. Baylor, who is number one in the nation in field goal percentage defensively and UConn is third shows why they are among the best teams in the country and are kind of meeting pre-maturely as Baylor could have Been a 1 seed. However, we get the game of the year and with both teams top 5 in efficiency on offense, this proves to be a battle for a ticket to the Final Four. The first quarter both teams came out blazing as it was high pace with UConn up 26 to 24. The second quarter both teams were stingy as things slowed down with UConn leading at the half 39 to 37. After trading baskets to begin the third quarter, Baylor started to pull away with a 10 to 1 run to go up by 10. UConn answered right back with Paige Bueckers leading the way to cap off a 19 to nothing run.
It is tough to determine the what if factor however with Baylor up 53 to 44, Baylor’s reigning defensive player of the year and point guard Didi Richards went down with a leg injury. That was at the beginning of the UConn run and Paige got loose after Didi had to leave with an injury. NaLyssa Smith ends the run with a lay-up at the 6:46 mark. So, in a game of runs Baylor fought back to bring the game within one possession 68 to 65 with 33.3 seconds left to play. A controversial no call was in the thoughts as Baylor turned the ball over with one last shot to win the game. After a great effort, UConn Lady Huskies prevail with a 69 to 67 victory against Baylor. Dijonai Carrington led Baylor with 22 points and 7 rebounds, while NaLyssa Smith had a double double with 14 points and 13 rebounds respectively for Baylor. Paige Bueckers who is arguably one of if not the best freshmen in the nation led the way with 28 points 3 rebounds and steals to propel the Lady Huskies from behind. ChristynWilliams had a stellar game with 21 points and 7 rebounds. UConn has advanced to their 12th straight Final Four trip.
#2 Houston vs #12 Oregon State
Oregon State the first 12 seed in since Missouri in 2002 to reach the Elite Eight faced Houston to see who punches their Final Four ticket. Houston jumped out to a commanding first half lead as they dominated defensively holding Oregon State to 17 first half points as Houston doubled that total with 34. The second half was a totally different story as Oregon came out in a zone and started to warm up on offense and was plus 7 in the first 12 minutes of the second half making it a closer game 52 to 42 with 7:59 left in the game. Oregon State who has been playing with house money was picked 12th which is dead last in the Pac 12 conference. They have come a long way from that prediction and have become the Cindarella of the tournament inching their way back to within 3, 55 to 52 with 4 minutes and 40 seconds left to go. After exhausting all their energy to mound a comeback, Oregon State ran out of gas as they fell to number 2 seed Houston 67 to 61. Ethan Thompson was held in check most of the game by a tall, long defender in Dejon Jarreau of Houston who had a stellar game with 10 points 8 rebounds and assist, 2 blocks and a steal. Thompson finished strong still with 11 points 7 rebounds and 6 assists however Maurice Calloo led the Beavers with 13 points in only 13 minutes. Houston was led by Marcus Sasser who had 20 points but had 19 early in the second half before leaving for a long stretch due to a head injury.
He would return to help the Cougars advance past Oregon State 67 to 61 which is the first Final four appearance for Houston since “PHI SLAMA JAMA” led by coach Guy Lewis who had Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon who went to the Final Four 3 straight years from 82-84. Houston becomes the first team to face 4 double digit seeds in NCAA tournament history. Calvin Sampson will lead his Houston Cougars into the 2021 Final Four. Houston has an amazing 11 game winning streak and will look to continue next week in the Final Four.