Even Lady Vols can't stop Baylor

Posted Monday, Mar. 26, 2012  comments  Print Reprints

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Baylor's women have just two wins to go for 40-0. The Tennessee Lady Vols' future is far less certain.

Brittney Griner had 23 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks before being ejected with less than a minute remaining and top-seeded Baylor rolled over Tennessee 77-58 Monday night to advance to the NCAA Tournament Final Four.

Shekinna Stricklen had 22 points for Tennessee (27-9), whose seniors became its first four-year class not to reach a Final Four.

The No. 2-seeded Lady Vols face an uncertain future, as Pat Summitt has yet to say if she'll return for a 39th season as Tennessee coach. She announced in August she'd been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer's type.

"This team is about Pat Summitt. This team has battled all year," said Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick as she fought back tears. "I'm proud of them. I thought our team and coaching staff obviously was in a difficult situation. But I thought this team was responsive. I wouldn't trade anything that we did this year."

The Lady Bears (38-0), who are back in the national semifinals for the second time in three years, will face Stanford on Sunday night in Denver. Should Baylor win it all, it'll become the first men's or women's team in NCAA history to finish a year with 40 wins.

Baylor held Tennessee to just 30.3 percent shooting from the floor. Much of that was because of the inside presence of the 6-foot-8 Griner, who was just one block shy of her fifth career triple-double.

"Defense wins ballgames for you," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I guess learned from two of the best. I learned from [Summitt] and [former Louisiana Tech coach] Leon Barmore, you better guard people. And these kids are going to guard you."

A rather ugly game for a purist's perspective got even uglier in the final 46.8 seconds.

Odyssey Sims, who led Baylor with 27 points, tumbled to the floor, and she and Stricklen had to be separated and were each assessed a technical foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.

No punches were thrown, but Griner and teammates Terran Condrey and Jordan Madden were ejected for leaving the bench. The NCAA says none of the players will be suspended for the Final Four.

"Just got caught in the heat of the moment," Sims said. "Everything's fine now."

As for Summitt, she was given a standing ovation from Tennessee and Baylor fans alike when she came out roughly 15 minutes before tipoff. But as defeat became apparent, she sat silently on the bench with her legs crossed.

Summitt has 1,098 wins, more than any basketball coach in NCAA history, and eight national titles, but Baylor was too much for her team.

"It's not fun for me to coach against Pat," Mulkey said. "I don't take great pleasure in that. But I have a job to do."

Baylor led 35-20 at halftime despite a poor start shooting by Griner. Tennessee got no closer than 11 points after that.

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