Thursday, April 19, 2018
Sports

Baylor women rout Tennessee and Pat Summitt in NCAA Tournament

DES MOINES, Iowa — Baylor has just two wins to go for 40-0. Tennessee's future is far less certain.

Brittney Griner had 23 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks before being ejected with less than a minute left and top-seeded Baylor rolled over Tennessee 77-58 Monday night to advance to the Final Four. The Bears play Stanford on Sunday night in Denver. The Cardinal rolled past Duke 81-69 in Monday's other region final.

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

The Vols face an uncertain future as Pat Summitt has yet to say if she'll return for a 39th season as 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, fighting 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."

Summitt was given a standing ovation by both teams' fans 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 men's or women's coach in history, but these Bears were too much for her Vols.

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

Glory Johnson, Stricklen and the other members of their senior class fell short of the Final Four but took solace in their effort against the mighty Bears.

"We played them as strong as we could," Johnson said. "If you don't leave everything out on the floor, whether you're winning or losing, it was the last opportunity to show people what type of player you are. I definitely left it all out there, Shekinna left it all out there, Vicki (Baugh) left it all out there.

"All the seniors played as hard as they could."

The Bears (38-0) are in the national semifinals for the second time in three years. Should Baylor win it all, it'll become the first men's or women's team in NCAA history to finish with 40 wins.

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

"Defense wins ballgames for you," Mulkey said. "I guess I 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.

Baylor's Odyssey Sims, who led the Bears with 27 points, tumbled to the floor. Stricklen appeared to taunt Sims, and they had to be separated. Both were each assessed technical fouls 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.

Stricklen said she apologized to Sims, who said: "Just got caught in the heat of the moment. Everything's fine now."

Baylor led 35-20 at halftime despite poor shooting from Griner. Tennessee made a charge to start the second half, highlighted when Johnson scored a second-chance basket on Griner and smiled when Griner tossed her to the floor.

But Sims followed a layup with a 3 to help the Bears go back ahead 49-38 with 11:12 to go. Tennessee made one final run, cutting a 19-point deficit to 64-53 with 4:48 left, but Griner had six points in the next minute.

STANFORD 81, DUKE 69: Nnemkadi Ogwumike will end her sensational senior season right where she has the rest: at the Final Four.

Ogwumike made it happen on both ends of the floor with 29 points and nine rebounds despite constant double-teams, sending the top-seeded Cardinal (35-1) past the No. 2 seed Blue Devils (27-6) in the Fresno (Calif.) Region final for Stanford's fifth straight Final Four berth.

The Cardinal is looking for its first title since 1992.

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