MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Freshman sensation Brittney Griner has
grown up a lot this season - just ask Tennessee.
Griner scored 27 points and blocked 10 shots, leading
fourth-seeded Baylor to a 77-62 win over the top-seeded Lady Vols
on Saturday to advance to the NCAA tournament regional finals.
"She was the X factor," said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt,
whose team was taken out in the first round last season.
Baylor's only other appearance in the round of eight was in
2005, the same year it won the national championship. The Lady
Bears (26-9) will face No. 2 seed Duke on Monday night.
The Lady Vols' loss spoiled the highly anticipated matchup
between Tennessee and Connecticut, which could have happened in
this year's national semifinals. The Lady Vols, who lost in the
first round last season, haven't missed out on back-to-back Final
Fours since 1993-94.
Tennessee (32-3) successfully limited the 6-foot-8 Griner in its
74-65 win over Baylor in the first game of the season but couldn't
do it again even with as many as four players on her at a time.
Griner hit several shots while double-teamed or passed to an open
Lady Bears teammate for an easy layup.
"You're watching a phenom out here play above the rim," Mulkey
said. "That's what needs to be written in every article from this
day forward, because she's such a sweet child as you can see."
Griner had been somewhat tentative on offense since she was
suspended for two games after throwing a punch against a Texas Tech
player in early March. She was back to her dominant self on both
ends of the court.
"I just knew I had to come out and play my game and go back to
the old Brittney," Griner said.
Griner's 26 blocks in the NCAA tournament ranks her second in
history. Duke's Alison Bales holds the NCAA tournament record with
30 in 2006, and Connecticut's Rebecca Lobo's 22 now ranks third.
The teams went back and forth throughout the first half and
early in the second, trading the lead 10 times and tying four
times. With both 6-foot-6 Kelley Cain and 6-foot-3 Alyssia Brewer
on the floor to guard Griner, Tennessee found some success inside
and was up 55-50 with just under eight minutes left.
The Lady Vol orange-clad crowd fell silent as Griner hit
back-to-back layups and had a three-point play as part of a 21-1
run as Tennessee's defense unraveled.
Tennessee (32-3) turned to its shooters in desperation. Though
Angie Bjorklund and Shekinna Stricklen managed to hit jumpers in
traffic and knock down a few 3s in the first half, they missed left
and right in the second half.
The Lady Vols managed to hit only 32.9 percent, only slightly
better than their season-worst 32.8 percent against Stanford, and
finished with 22 paint points. The Lady Vols allowed the Lady Bears
49.1 percent shooting - a season high for a Tennessee opponent -
and 36 paint points.
"I can't believe it. I'm just really excited that to get to the
Elite Eight we had to go through the best, and the best in this
region was Tennessee," Baylor's Morghan Medlock said.
Stricklen led Tennessee with 18 points, and Bjorklund added 12.
"I think anytime you play against a 6-8 player, it's is going
to be tough to shoot over her," Bjorklund said. "At the same
time, I thought when our posts did have the ball they did a good
job. Going against her, we just needed to give the posts more
Tennessee fell to 23-5 in regional semifinal games.