Lauren Cox had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Baylor earned its first Final Four berth since 2012 by beating Iowa 85-53 on Monday night in the Greensboro Regional final.
Didi Richards added 16 points and 10 rebounds, Chloe Jackson had 14 points and the Bears (35-1) — the top overall seed — won their 27th straight game by shooting 53%, clamping down on All-American Megan Gustafson and her supporting cast and holding the nation’s best shooting team to a season-worst 32%.
Now it’s on to Tampa, Florida, for the school’s fourth Final Four and its first in seven years — when the Bears won their second national championship.
The 6-foot-4 Cox — a third-team AP All-America pick — and fellow twin tower Kalani Brown, a 6-7 second-team All-American, teamed up to dominate both the glass and the heavily-hyped matchup with Gustafson, the nation’s leading scorer at 27.9 points per game.
Brown finished with 14 points, and Baylor held a 47-26 rebounding advantage with 20 second-chance points to six for Iowa.
Gustafson finished with 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting, but was held without a rebound in the second half for second-seeded Iowa (29-7). Kathleen Doyle and Tania Davis each had 10 points.
The Bears — who entered allowing their opponents to shoot a Division I-worst 31.4% — held Iowa way below its previous worst of 41.1% at Purdue on Jan. 10.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes hadn’t made it this far into the bracket since 1993 — when C. Vivian Stringer led them to their lone Final Four — but their worst shooting night of the year came at the worst possible time. That was, of course, mostly due to the Bears and their stingy defense.
Baylor: Maybe the Bears will face some game pressure in Tampa. They certainly haven’t so far in this tournament. After winning their first three games by an average of 40.3 points, they turned that matchup of Cox and Brown against Gustafson into yet another mismatch.
Baylor faces Portland Region champion Oregon on Friday night in the national semifinals in Tampa, Florida.