Griner delights home crowd as Baylor rolls into Sweet 16

Posted Wednesday, Mar. 27, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Brittney Griner provided a most appropriate goodbye in her final home game for Baylor — with a trio of dunks and another double-double.

Griner had 33 points and a career-high 22 rebounds to go with her three highlight dunks, including a the one-handed slam in the first half and two more in a 79-second span right before coming out of the game for good, as the defending national champion Lady Bears rolled past Florida State 85-47 on Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

With former President George W. Bush part of the crowd packed into the Ferrell Center for the final home game of Griner’s impressive career, the 6-foot-8 two-time All-American delivered.

The Lady Bears (34-1) are in the NCAA round of 16 for the fourth year in a row. They play Louisville (26-8) on Sunday in Oklahoma City.

Former Fort Worth Dunbar standout Brooklyn Pope had 12 points for Baylor, which has won a nation’s-best 57 games in a row at home. Odyssey Sims had 11 points and Kimetria Hayden 10.

Leonor Rodriguez had 11 points and was the only player in double figures for Florida State (23-10), which at the end of the regular season was the only of the 343 Division I teams with five players averaging in double figures.

The first one-handed slam for Griner came late in the first half of a game that became lopsided in a hurry. The Lady Bears scored the game’s first 11 points, even without a field goal from Griner in that opening 3 1/2 -minute onslaught.

Griner’s opening dunk came on a break after a Florida State basket. Freshman guard Niya Johnson passed ahead to Griner, who took one step without a dribble before slamming it home with four minutes left in the first half for a 43-18 lead, sending the crowd of 9,652 into a frenzy as she ran down the court with her mouth open, clearly enjoying the moment.

But she wasn’t finished.

Bush had already left his front-row seats behind the Baylor bench when Griner had the last two dunks. She dunked again on another pass from Johnson with 7:46 left in the game, then had an assist on the next possession before her last dunk with 6:27 left — when she grabbed the rebound of a missed 3-pointer, took a step around a defender and slammed it home.

During a timeout less than a half-minute later, Griner — the first woman ever with three dunks in the same game — came out of her final home game for the Lady Bears.

Only six other women have dunked in a college game. That group had 15 dunks combined, three fewer than Griner’s career total.

The most dunks by anyone else was the seven by Tennessee’s Candace Parker. Griner has 11 this season.

While the crowd gave her a loud and lengthy ovation, Griner shared an extended embrace with coach Kim Mulkey, and picked the coach up off the ground. After putting Mulkey down and going down to the end of the bench, Griner thrust both arms into the air to acknowledge the cheers.

When the game was over, Griner again held both arms in the air. She took a couple of laps around the arena floor, with Baylor cheerleaders following her, then jumped onto the back of Shanay Washington for a piggy-back ride before then returning the favor to her friend and former teammate whose career ended early because of multiple knee injuries.

Since the senior trio of Griner, Hayden and Jordan Madden got to Waco as freshmen together, Baylor is 71-2 at home. Griner has played in only one loss. She didn’t participate in the last home defeat, against Texas in the 2009-10 regular-season finale.

The Lady Bears have won every home game the past three seasons — since Sims arrived and when transfers Destiny Williams and Pope, the other seniors, started playing.

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