DES MOINES, Iowa — Brittney Griner capped a sensational performance with a two-handed dunk and Baylor stormed into the NCAA regional finals for the third straight year with an 83-68 rout of Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Griner, who finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, got behind the defense and threw down her slam with 6:29 left in yet another rout for the Lady Bears — swinging briefly on the rim for good measure.
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It was the second straight game in which the 6-foot-8 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 NCAA tournament play had been the most.
Destiny Williams added 18 points on 9-for-10 shooting for the top-seeded Lady Bears (37-0), who’ll play second-seeded Tennessee in the regional final on Monday night, the winner advancing to the Final Four.
Baylor, the 2005 national champion, will be seeking its third Final Four appearance and second in three years. Tennessee, which has won eight titles, will try to get to the national semifinals for the 19th time.
The Lady Bears took control with a 20-0 first-half run and never gave fourth-seeded Tech (26-9) a chance to answer back. Sharp-shooting freshman Sydney Wallace led Georgia Tech with 32 points.
Griner dominated with her scoring (13-for-18 shooting), rebounding and intimidation on defense. Then came the dunk and even the neutral fans stood and roared their approval.
A few seconds later, during a timeout, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey took Griner and the other starters out, giving the crowd another chance to salute Griner.
Georgia Tech made the round of 16 for the first time and came in with nine victories in the last 10 games. The Yellow Jackets showed they were serious about competing early as Wallace, who scored 51 points in the first two rounds of the tournament, hit a 3-pointer in front of the Baylor bench and dropped in a high floater over Griner that put Tech up 10-6 and forced a Baylor timeout.
Wallace had no problem showing some enthusiasm after burying her 3.
If only she and her teammates knew what was ahead.
The Lady Bears charged out of the timeout and scored the next 20 points and take a 26-10 lead — and they did it with everyone contributing.
Griner hit three soft turnaround shots. Williams got inside for three buckets and made a leaner in the lane. Kimetria Hayden knocked down a jumper and a free throw, and Odyssey Sims added three free throws.
Tech, meanwhile, committed seven turnovers and missed six shots while going scoreless for 6 1/2 minutes. The Yellow Jackets would never recover, despite Wallace’s sizzling shooting.
The 5-foot-10 guard, looking as though she had been playing in the NCAA tournament her whole life, made 12 of 22 shots, including 8 of 12 from 3-point range. But she didn’t have nearly enough help and Georgia Tech’s season ended in Iowa for the third time in five years.
The Yellow Jackets lost to Iowa State in a first-round NCAA tournament game in Des Moines in 2008 and lost to Oklahoma in the second round of the 2009 tournament in Iowa City.
With the rout on, Griner showed the full palette of her skills when she reached above everyone to grab a rebound, dribbled the length of the floor and bounced a pass to Williams for a layup that made it 32-14.
The lead was 34-14 when Mulkey decided she could give her star a break and Griner sat for a couple of minutes. Not that it made a lot of difference.
Baylor blocked three shots on one Georgia Tech possession while Griner was out and the lead was 18 when she returned. It grew back to 20 when Makenzie Robertson, Mulkey’s daughter, lofted a lob pass to Griner for a layup, drawing a roar from the Baylor fans.
The Lady Bears led by 16 at the half and easily countered after Wallace hit a jumper to draw the Yellow Jackets to 42-28 at the start of the second half.
Griner — who else? — got the Lady Bears going. She made a pair of free throws, took a pass for an easy layup and tipped in her own miss as Baylor ran off eight straight points and quickly built its lead to 26.
The only thing the Lady Bears had to worry about after that was when Mulkey would order them back to practice to start working on Tennessee.
And to make sure they stayed out of the way when Griner dunked.