Projected No. 1 pick Ionescu returning to Ducks

Making the case for each of the Women’s Final Four teams

Making the case for each of the Women’s Final Four teams

Baylor went into the third trying to rally from Oregon's second quarter surge, but the Ducks were the one who were hot.

Kalani Brown scored 22 points and Lauren Cox added 21 as the Bears (36-1) held off Women's Final Four newcomer OR 72-67 Friday to reach the championship game for the first time since 2012.

"The feeling is unreal", Brown said.

Baylor coach Kim Mulkey won national titles as a player and assistant coach at Louisiana Tech. The Fighting Irish beat CT in the other semifinal.

Ionescu's letter started with a touching story of the moment when she learned that National Basketball Association legend Kobe Bryant published a video on ESPN breaking down her game - which she then watched "a billion times".

"There was nothing to draw up".

"You play, you change, you adapt to whatever your personnel is capable of doing", Mulkey said. Sabrina Ionescu led OR in scoring with 18 points.

She was a dominating force throughout the tournament, putting in 31 against Mississippi State in Oregon's Elite Eight victory which put them in the Final Four. I'm just so proud of the team, I can't describe it. ... "We certainly belonged to be here", Graves added. "I think we're going to go down as one of the best teams in program history". "We saw bits and pieces of it here and there". "Didi has length. She's bugging you, she's active... look, they are really hard to defend".

Asked during a postgame news conference if she's made a decision about her future, Ionescu responded with a single word: "No". Ionescu shot 6-of-24, including 0-of-7 in the fourth quarter.

OR was one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the nation this season, but was just 12-of-32 from behind the arc and shot 36.8 percent overall.

"I want to bring light and joy to the team so we can make that next step next year", she said, smiling.

With several of the top teams in the country, including Baylor, Notre Dame, UConn, Louisville and Mississippi State set to lose major contributors OR will be as well positioned as any to capitalize. This one - the latest chapter in perhaps the greatest rivalry in women's basketball over the past decade - provided a fitting encore. The Ducks jumped out to an 11-4 lead on the back of the three point shot.

Oregon, the nation's best 3-point shooting team with a 41.9 percent success rate, connected on 12-of-32 shots from distance, but couldn't compete in the paint with a team that also led the nation in rebounding differential and blocked shots in addition to owning the game's best field-goal percentage defense.

UConn's Katie Lou Samuelson scored 20 points.

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