March 22, 2011
WACO, Texas (AP) - Brittney Griner spent much of the first half watching from the Baylor bench. The Lady Bears held on just fine until she could get back in the game.
"Those other kids did pretty good," coach Kim Mulkey said. "They maintained the lead. ... So I guess those other players that don't have names can play."
Griner had 30 points even after sitting the final 9 minutes of the first half with two fouls, and the top-seeded Bears rolled over West Virginia 82-68 on Tuesday night to reach the NCAA tournament's round of 16 for the sixth time in eight years.
Baylor (33-2) already had a 14-point lead and Griner had 10 points when she picked up her second foul, but West Virginia managed to only trim that deficit to 11 points before the 6-foot-8 standout sophomore returned and quickly re-established herself after halftime.
"It was hard sitting on the bench," Griner said. "But my team did great and they held it, and I was able to come back in the second half and help my team."
That is when Mulkey leaned in to mention how good Griner's teammates played. The coach's microphone hadn't yet been turned on, but her message was clearly heard.
On the first Baylor possession after halftime, Griner again took advantage of the one-on-one coverage that West Virginia had said it would be willing to play against the Big 12 player of the year.
After the Mountaineers (24-10) had a turnover to open the second half, Griner was fighting for position under the basket when she signaled point guard Odyssey Sims. Next came a lob pass to Griner, who took a step behind the defender and converted an easy layup.
"She's a great player," Mountaineers coach Mike Carey. "She and (Connecticut's) Maya Moore in my opinion are the two best players in the country."
West Virginia lost senior guard Sarah Miles to a right leg injury when she rolled awkwardly in a collision with about 16 minutes left. Soon after she went to the locker room, her teammates responded with an inspired a 9-0 run -- including a 3-pointer by 6-3 center Ayana Dunning -- to close the gap to 58-51.
Griner made sure the Mountaineers got no closer.
After blocking Liz Repella's shot on West Virginia's next possession, Griner quickly got the ball on offense and made a strong inside basket. That started a 16-2 run in which Griner had seven points and two assists.
"We were going to go at her. We knew she was going to block some shots, but we weren't going to shy away or try to alter our shots," said Repella, who finished with 29 points. "Coach always says with a shotblocker, you can't fade away from them. You either have to into them and they're going to call it or not. So we continued to attack and try to get into her body."
Baylor next plays Wisconsin-Green Bay (34-1) on Sunday in Dallas. The fifth-seeded Phoenix have won 25 games in a row after a 65-56 victory Tuesday night over Michigan State.
Melissa Jones and Sims both had 13 points for Baylor, which finished 21-0 at home. Destiny Williams added 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting and had nine rebounds.
"The girls just had a great amount of effort," Jones said. "Everybody contributed in a good way."
Vanessa House added 14 points for West Virginia, which has never gotten past the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Carey had said his team wouldn't change what it did against Griner and Baylor, sticking primarily to its tenacious man-to-man defense. The plan was also to go right at Griner when the Mountaineers had the ball.
Right away at the start of the game, Griner got a pass from Sims while going one-on-one against 6-4 center Asya Bussie -- the two previously went against each other in an AAU game that both said was a good matchup.
Bussie responded with a quick inside basket against Griner that tied the game.
"That was definitely a big play. Asya's a good player. We knew Asya could do that," Repella said. "I think it gave her a lot of confidence, too, and our other players."
Miles hit a 12-footer that put West Virginia up and the score went back-and-forth for the first few minutes. Repella hit a 3-pointer that made it 7-6, but Baylor went ahead to stay when Griner had Bussie on her again and passed the ball. Jones grabbed the ball with her right hand going away from the basket along the baseline and made a layup.
Repella picked up her second foul after that, but was only out of the game for a couple of minutes before Madina Ali picked up her second foul and Baylor had already jumped ahead 20-8.
"Our girls didn't quit. They kept playing hard. They did what they had to do," Carey said. "This game was either going to be called close or let you get physical. Well, the game was called close. Because of that, we got several people in foul trouble and all that. It is what it is."