March 27, 2011
DALLAS (AP) - Brittney Griner keeps piling up the points, putting Baylor within one win of its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Final Four.
After another big-time tournament game, the 6-foot-8 sophomore succinctly summed up what is driving her.
"March Madness," Griner said with a sly smile after she put up a career-high 40 points with 10 rebounds as the Lady Bears defeated Wisconsin-Green Bay 86-76 on Sunday night.
Top-seeded Baylor (34-2) advanced to the regional final by snapping a 25-game winning streak by the feisty team from the Horizon League looking for a Butler-like finish. The Phoenix are from the same conference that boasts a two-time Final Four team on the men's side.
The Lady Bears are champions of the Big 12, which will send only one team to the women's Final Four - Baylor and Big 12 runner-up Texas A&M (30-5). Baylor meets the Aggies for the fourth time this season Tuesday night in a Dallas Regional final game deep in the heart of Texas. Baylor won the first three meetings.
"I don't like playing them again, because I think it takes away the opportunity for two Big 12 teams to have made it to the Final Four," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Plus, the Lady Bears had quite a fight for a while in their game that followed A&M's 79-38 rout of Georgia.
Baylor led only 52-49 before Griner made a short baseline shot over two defenders with just over 13 minutes left to spark a 14-0 spurt in which she and freshman point guard Odyssey Sims scored all the points.
Sims had consecutive 3-pointers before two free throws and a putback by Griner. Sims ended the spurt with a steal and a breakaway layup.
"I don't think about it too much, how much I scored," Griner said. "When I'm feeling it in a game, it's just something that comes over you. If I'm feeling it, I'm just going to keep going until I can't, until somebody else starts in, and then I'm going to get the ball to them."
Griner was coming off 30 points and eight blocks in Baylor's victory Tuesday night over West Virginia, when she sat on the bench the final 9:20 of the first half with two fouls.
This time, she sat the final 5:51 of the half with 13 points after two fouls in a 14-second span.
She finished 15 of 21 from the field and made all 10 of her free throws. She also had six blocked shots.
"Griner was just dominant. ... I really felt like going in physically we'd be able to bury better than we did in the post. Boy, she's strong," Green Bay coach Matt Bollant said. "It was more Griner, honestly, than our defense."
Sims, playing only a few miles from home, finished with 18 points, four assists and three steals. That was plenty to offset a season-high eight turnovers.
Kayla Tetschlag led Green Bay (34-2) with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow senior Celeste Hoewisch had 20 points.
The Phoenix finished with 34 rebounds, the same as Baylor, with an impressive 21 offensive boards, despite Griner usually clogging the middle. They certainly didn't back down from Baylor's dominating center.
"We just have that mentality as players. We don't care what's on the front of the jersey. We're going to play our butts off for 40 minutes," said Hoewisch, fighting back tears. "And we did talk about not being intimidated. But we didn't really need to say much. These girls are fighters, and I wouldn't take the floor with anybody else."
Griner's two quick fouls came after she tried to block a shot by Stephanie Sension, and when she was called for a charge against the 6-3 forward who is Green Bay's tallest player. The Lady Bears were up by 13 when Griner went to the bench for the rest of the first half.
Green Bay, in the round of 16 for the first time, took advantage with a 12-3 run and pulled to 34-30 when Hoewisch hit a 3-pointer with 2:36 left.
Bollant called a timeout with 9 seconds left after consecutive Phoenix turnovers led to baskets by Brooklyn Pope that stretched Baylor's lead to 40-32.
Bollant settled down his team and set up what was expected to be a half-ending play, but Hoewisch found an opening and got the pass to Tetschlag for a layup. Only problem was that left 4 seconds on the clock, enough for Sims to bank in a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc as the buzzer sounded for a 43-34 lead.
Despite being only 5-foot-7, Hoewisch went inside several times. When she drove, got knocked down and had her shot swatted away by Griner one time, Hoewisch looked up at the official, holding her arms out in disbelief that no foul was called.
With Griner in her path another time, Hoewisch swung the ball around the Baylor center to Tetschlag for an easy layup.
But Hoewisch absorbed the full brunt of Baylor's big center midway through the second half. When she came up from behind to try to provide defensive help, Hoewisch was called for a foul when Griner fell on top of her.
"We tried and we fought and we played with a lot of courage," Bollant said. "But we didn't have the answer for the best player in the country."