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Big centers can't wait to face off

MEMPHIS — Baylor coach Kim Mulkey has noticed a change in Brittney Griner's play since her suspension this month for punching a Texas Tech player. The 6-foot-8 freshman has been more timid on the floor, where she's used to being surrounded and targeted by players far smaller.

Maybe the cure is Kelley Cain, Tennessee's 6-foot-6 center.

"I will definitely get back to the way I was playing before the incident happened; be able to go against someone in the post and not have someone on my hip where I go to the post hard and the defender falls over," Griner said with a half grin of today's region semifinal. "I'm definitely looking forward to it."

The feeling is mutual.

"Nobody's in my rib cage. They're on my level," said Cain, a redshirt sophomore. "Since it happens so rarely, I really enjoy playing somebody who's my height or taller."

Griner averages 18.4 points, 8.5 rebounds and 6.2 blocks. Only five Division I teams average more blocks. She set an NCAA record with 14 in a second-round win over Georgetown and has dunked four times. Cain, meanwhile, averages 10.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 blocks. She set a school record with 12 blocks against LSU in February.

Today is a rematch of the teams' season opener, which Tennessee won 74-65. Griner helped Baylor grab a first-half lead but was on the bench early in the second half after picking up her fourth foul.

"We know Baylor. But guess what? They know us," Vols coach Pat Summitt said. "It's a different team."

Quotable: "Andy and I have a running argument and debate about who has the better dogs, like what's the best kind of dog to have. I guess he has some kind of herding dog that he claims are the smartest dogs. I'm like, 'No, I have a golden retriever, and my golden retrievers are clearly better pets and better dogs.' When we see each other during the summer — and we have known each other for a long time — we kind of get into that little argument about, 'Well, how's your dog?' 'How's your dog?' 'Your dog is not as smart as my dog.' " — Tara VanDerveer, Stanford coach on Georgia coach Andy Landers; they meet tonight.

Long wait: Despite being among the nation's most prominent programs, Georgia and Stanford have not met in the tournament since March 20, 2000, a Georgia first-round win.

Long shot: At No. 11, San Diego State is the last double-digit seed left and seeks to become the first to reach a region final since the field expanded to 64 in 1994.

"I am not a good listener, and everybody is telling us we shouldn't be here," said coach Beth Burns, whose team meets Duke today. "We play 40 minutes, and we don't have to play anybody 10 times, just once."

Almost there: Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves has written "Elite Eight!!!" on top of his dry-erase board all season, complete with three underlines and a circle.

It's a pretty audacious goal for a school that had never won a tournament game before upsetting Xavier in the first round last season. But that got the Zags thinking big, and they've made it all the way back to tonight's rematch with the Musketeers.

"We wanted to change the paradigm of what we could accomplish," Graves said. "We didn't make a huge deal about it. But they set a goal for themselves, and we went after it."

Big centers can't wait to face off 03/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 10:16pm]
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