Freshman sensation Brittney Griner has grown up a lot this season — just ask Tennessee.
Griner scored 27 points and blocked 10 shots, leading fourth-seeded Baylor to a 77-62 win over the top-seeded Lady Vols yesterday to advance to the NCAA Tournament’s Memphis Regional final.
“She was the X factor,’’ said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt.
Baylor’s only other appearance in the round of eight was in 2005, the year it won the national championship. The Lady Bears (26-9) will face No. 2 seed Duke tomorrow night.
The Lady Vols’ loss spoiled the highly anticipated matchup between Tennessee and Connecticut, which could have happened in the national semifinals. The Lady Vols, who lost in the first round last season, haven’t missed out on back-to-back Final Fours since 1993-94.
Tennessee (32-3) successfully limited the 6-foot-8-inch Griner in its 74-65 win over Baylor in the first game of the season but couldn’t do it again. Griner hit several shots while double-teamed or passed to an open teammate for an easy layup.
“You’re watching a phenom out here play above the rim,’’ Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “That’s what needs to be written in every article from this day forward, because she’s such a sweet child, as you can see.’’
Griner’s 26 blocks in the NCAA Tournament ranks second in history. Duke’s Alison Bales holds the NCAA Tournament record with 30 in 2006.
The teams went back and forth until early in the second half, trading the lead 10 times. With both 6-6 Kelley Cain and 6-3 Alyssia Brewer on the floor to guard Griner, Tennessee found some success inside and was up, 55-50, with just under eight minutes left.
But Griner answered with back-to-back layups and had a 3-point play as part of a 21-1 run as Tennessee’s defense unraveled.
Duke 66, San Diego St. 58 — Jasmine Thomas and the Blue Devils put an end to the Aztecs’ surprising NCAA Tournament run while putting Duke a win away from its first Final Four since 2006.
Thomas matched her career high with 29 points, helping second-seeded Duke (30-5) reach the Memphis Regional final and notch its eighth 30-win season in the past decade.
No. 11 seed San Diego State (23-11) upset two ranked teams to reach this round for the first time since the tournament expanded to 64 in 1994. But the Aztecs’ bid to become the first double-digit seed to play in a regional final since that expansion failed as they missed their first 10 shots of the second half.
Duke led, 35-34, after a tight first half, and the Blue Devils scored the first 10 points of the second half to take advantage of the Aztecs’ cold shooting.
Kayla Pedersen added 13 points and 15 rebounds and Nnemkadi Ogwumike had 11 points and 11 boards in the 25th straight win for Stanford (34-1) since losing at No. 1 Connecticut Dec. 23.
Anne Marie Armstrong scored 8 points to lead Georgia (25-9), which couldn’t handle Stanford’s height advantage, trailed by as many as 40 points, and shot 20.3 percent from the field.