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NCAA women's tournament

Not a waltz, but Tennessee wins

Griner, Baylor are next for Lady Vols

Baylor’s Meighan Simmons, who had 16 points in the second half, gets her back up in front of Kansas’s Angel Goodrich. Baylor’s Meighan Simmons, who had 16 points in the second half, gets her back up in front of Kansas’s Angel Goodrich. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)
Associated Press / March 25, 2012
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Tennessee was down 14 points against 11th-seeded Kansas, an unheralded bunch that few though could test the mighty Lady Vols.

Sophomore Meighan Simmons gave Tennessee the boost it needed to survive and advance to yet another regional final.

Simmons scored 16 of her 22 points off the bench in the second half and Tennessee rallied past the Jayhawks, 84-73, Saturday and advanced to the Des Moines Regional final, the Lady Vols’ 25th regional final in 31 years.

Glory Johnson added 18 points for the second-seeded Lady Vols (27-8), who’ll meet undefeated and top-seeded Baylor Monday night for a spot in the Final Four.

It was the 1,098th win for Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who announced in August she’d been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type, and has yet to commit to coaching next season.

“The first half we tend to get ourselves in a hole, but we fought back,’’ said Tennessee assistant coach Holly Warlick. “I thought our bench was outstanding.’’

The Lady Vols trailed, 26-12, in the first half, but cut the deficit to 35-30 by halftime. They took the lead for good with a 19-9 run to open the second half.

Angel Goodrich had 23 points and Aishah Sutherland had 19 for Kansas (21-13), which fell to 0-3 in regional semifinals.

Tennessee couldn’t do anything right for the first 11 minutes, falling behind to a Kansas team that finished below .500 in the Big 12.

But there’s a reason the Lady Vols always seem to be in the regional finals. The Jayhawks found out in the opening minutes of the second half, when Tennessee’s depth and athleticism overwhelmed them.

“The second-chance points on the glass, the offensive rebounds, which is what they’ve always been about,’’ Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “They got into us in the offensive glass, they got into us in transition. That’s the way they got the separation in the second half.’’

The Lady Vols finally took the lead, 44-42, thanks largely to back-to-back 3-pointers from Ariel Massengale, and a pair of free throws made it 53-46 Tennessee with 11:07 to go.

Des Moines Regional

Baylor 83, Georgia Tech 68 - Brittney Griner capped a sensational performance with a two-handed dunk and the lady Bears stormed into the regional finals for the third straight year by routing the Yellow Jackets.

Griner, who finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 blocks, got behind the defense and threw down her slam with 6:29 left - swinging briefly on the rim for good measure.

It was the second straight game in which the 6-foot-8-inch All-American dunked and the seventh slam of her college career. She’s now tied with former Tennessee star Candace Parker, whose two dunks in tournament play had been the most.

Destiny Williams added 18 points on 9-for-10 shooting for the top-seeded Lady Bears (37-0).

Fresno Regional

Stanford 76, South Carolina 60- Nnemkadi Ogwumike scored 39 points to carry the Cardinal (34-1) to their 31st win in a row by toppling the Gamecocks (25-10) in the semifinals.

The 6-foot-2-inch Ogwumike was almost unstoppable, shooting 14 of 22 from the field, and she had 10 rebounds. Her sister, Chiney, added 11 points.

Duke 74, St. John’s 47 - Shay Selby took charge in the second half to finish with 18 points and seven assists, leading the Blue Devils past the Red Storm in the regional semifinals.

Chelsea Gray scored 13 points and Tricia Liston had 15 for the second-seeded Blue Devils (25-5) in what became a surprising rout. Duke moved within a win of its first Final Four since 2006.

Da’Shena Stevens scored 19 points in her final game for No. 3 seed St. John’s (24-10), which didn’t have another player with more than 6 points.

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