Baylor’s Young halts run at return to the Final Four

by David McCoy

TEMPE, Ariz. – Minnesota’s Jamie Broback and Baylor’s Sophia Young were their teams’ go-to players through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, averaging 20 points and 23 points per game, respectively.

In Sunday’s Sweet 16 matchup in Tempe, the difference between the two proved to be the difference in the game.

Broback scored just four points to go with her four fouls, while Young scored 26 to lead the second-seeded Bears to a 64-57 win at Wells Fargo Arena. The Gophers’ loss brought an end to their hopes of a second-straight Final Four.

The win was Baylor’s 17th straight and gave the school its first-ever Elite Eight appearance.

“What (Young) can do, a lot of girls can’t do,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson said. “She can elevate in your face, and she can shoot it right over you. And not many girls can do that.”

Statistically, it was Broback’s second-worst game of the season and Young’s second-best. Young shot 12-of-26 from the field.

But it wasn’t just how many baskets she made that was so impressive; it was how she made them. Nine of the 12 baskets were jumpers, and most of those were well-contested and without her feet set.

“I think she’s probably one of the best athletes that we’ve ever played against,” Minnesota coach Pam Borton said. “She plays above people. She puts the ball down on the floor and has a great explosive first step.”

Meanwhile, Broback, who led Minnesota in scoring each of the previous seven games, struggled to make a single shot. She didn’t score her first basket until 10:42 was left in the first half and went 2-of-9 for the game.

“They were just obviously playing solid defense,” Broback said. “(Young and teammate Steffanie Blackmon) are two long, athletic post players that were giving us a little bit of trouble. But we can’t really let that get to us.”

As Broback and All-American center Janel McCarville struggled in the first half with only a combined seven points, Minnesota guards hit 5-of-7 three-pointers to keep the game at 34-31 at halftime.

Minnesota’s perimeter players also held Baylor’s guards to 2-for-13 shooting from three-point range and a combined 14 points.

McCarville awoke in the second half and gave Minnesota its first lead of the game at 35-34. But Baylor came right back to take a 39-37 lead and pulled even further ahead moments later with an 11-3 run to take a 50-42 lead.

Minnesota never got closer than four.

Baylor also found a way to stop Minnesota guards in the second half, forcing them into a sloppy 0-for-6 performance from behind the arc and a combined seven points.

Blackmon scored 10 points for the Bears, nine of which were in the first half. She helped offset McCarville’s 16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four blocks in McCarville’s final game with the Gophers.

The double-double was the 49th of McCarville’s career, passing Molly Tadich on the school’s all-time list.

But it still wasn’t enough to make up for Broback – or stop Young.

“(Young) had one of her better games tonight, obviously,” McCarville said. “She didn’t let up all game. They were tough shots, and she was hitting them. Some players just go up on good nights.”