RALEIGH, N.C. - Baylor fulfilled coach Kim Mulkey's promise to scratch, claw and give favored North Carolina State a fight.
But the Lady Bears find themselves in the unfamiliar role of Sweet 16 spectators after a gut-wrenching 78-72 overtime loss Tuesday night at the RBC Center.
The odds were stacked against fifth-seeded Baylor. North Carolina State had been one of the nation's hottest teams since the inspirational return of cancer-fighting coach Kay Yow in January. The Wolfpack had a hometown crowd of 5,227 on its side.
The Lady Bears (26-8) made a courageous comeback from a nine-point second-half deficit. But Baylor never did regain the lead, as forward Bernice Mosby's jumper fell short in the final seconds of regulation. The Wolfpack (25-9) scored on its first possession of overtime and never relinquished that lead.
Baylor, which will not advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003, played with passion that made Mulkey proud. The young Lady Bears, who had only two seniors, showed remarkable resiliency and desire.
"That's why so many tears are flowing in that locker room," Mulkey said. "It's a shame a team had to lose tonight."
Mosby, Baylor's only senior starter, finished with a game-high 26 points. She dominated the first half, scoring 17 points on 8-of-9 shooting to allow the Lady Bears to be tied at halftime despite committing 14 turnovers. Baylor shot 65 percent (13 of 20) from the floor in the first half.
North Carolina State turned up its defensive intensity in the second half. Forward Khadijah Whittington (career-high 23 points) played Mosby tighter, taking away her jumper and relying on her North Carolina State teammates for help when Mosby beat her off the dribble. Mosby missed 12 of her 15 shots after halftime and didn't score in the final 12 minutes of her college career.
Although Mosby had cooled off, Mulkey didn't hesitate to call a play for her star with the game on the line. North Carolina State's Shayla Fields missed two free throws with the score tied at 65 and 19.8 seconds remaining.
Mosby posted up on the left block with the clock ticking down. She caught the ball further from the basket than she wanted, and her 16-footer bounced off the front rim.
"We got it to the person we wanted to shoot the ball," said sophomore wing Jessica Morrow, who scored 13 points. "That's all we could ask for. We got the shot we wanted. It just didn't fall."
Fields redeemed herself in overtime, finishing off the Lady Bears by drilling a 3-pointer from the left corner to stretch the Wolfpack's lead to six with 47.3 seconds remaining.
"I think this team's for real," Yow said. "People always say they're playing on emotion. Well, I like emotional players."
Baylor has a bunch of those kind of players, most of whom will return next season.
"For them to fight and claw and compete, it hurts," Mulkey said. "For those players who are returning, I hope they don't forget how this feels."