Brittney Griner came up one blocked shot short of her fifth career triple-double as she guided Baylor to a convincing 77-58 win over Tennessee in the Des Moines Regional Final at Wells Fargo Arena.
Griner, one of four finalists for the Naismith Trophy, tallied 23 points and pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds for the top-seeded Lady Bears (38-0) as they continued their quest for a 40-win season. Odyssey Sims registered a game- high 27 points, shooting 5-of-8 behind the three-point line, followed by Kimetria Hayden with 18 points for a Baylor squad that awaits the winner of the Duke/Stanford matchup for their next game in Denver on April 1.
The second-seeded Lady Volunteers (27-9) were paced by Shekinna Stricklen with 22 points and 11 boards, although she shot just 8-of-26 from the field on the night. Also registering a double-double for Tennessee was Glory Johnson with 19 points and a team-best 14 boards.
Tennessee led by as many as five points four minutes into the meeting, but the team ended up shooting just 21.6 percent from the floor, including 1-of-9 behind the three-point line, en route to a 35-20 deficit at the break.
The Vols again struggled from beyond the arc in the second half, connecting on just 3-of-12 opportunities, allowing Baylor to open up a 19-point advantage and eventually cruise to the victory, but not before a bit of drama in the final minute of play.
With 46.8 seconds remaining Sims and Stricklen got tangled up and several players left the bench for both teams in an effort to separate teammates, a move that resulted in a number of ejections, including that of Griner. But the good news for Baylor is that there will reportedly be no suspensions for the next game as it tries to make it back to the championship round for the first time since 2005 when the Bears took down Michigan State rather easily, 84-62.
This was the second meeting of the season between the programs, with Baylor posting a 76-67 triumph in Knoxville in late November to snap what had been a 38-game home winning streak for the Vols.
Tennessee, the only program to have taken part in every NCAA Tournament since its inception back in 1982, was 18-6 in the Elite Eight heading into the night under the direction of legendary head coach Pat Summitt.
Summitt, who some suspect might not be back next year due to health concerns, now has a record of 111-23 in NCAA Tournament games and is 1,098-208 over the course of 38 campaigns. A seven-time NCAA Coach of the Year, Summitt has won the NCAA title a total of eight times, the last championship coming in 2008 with a 64-48 decision over Stanford.