DALLAS — Brittney Griner had another big game, got some help from Baylor’s freshman point guard, and the top-seeded Lady Bears ended any chance for Wisconsin-Green Bay to have a Butler-like finish.
Griner had a career-high 40 points with 10 rebounds, and combined with Sims to score all the points in the game-clinching 14-0 spurt, as the Lady Bears finally pulled away for an 86-76 victory against Green Bay on Sunday night.
Baylor advanced to the regional final by snapping a 25-game winning streak by the feisty team from the Horizon League that also boasts a two-time Final Four team on the men’s side.
The Lady Bears (34-2) led only 52-49 before Griner made a short baseline shot over two defenders with just over 13 minutes left. Sims then had consecutive 3-pointers before two free throws and a putback by Griner. Sims ended the spurt with a steal and breakaway layup.
“Stuff started clicking for us,” Griner said. “We weren’t rushing anything.”
Green Bay (34-2), in the NCAA round of 16 for the first time, put up quite a fight for a while against a team trying to get to the Final Four for the second consecutive season – and proved they weren’t intimidated by Griner, Baylor’s 6-foot-8 sophomore standout.
In the end, though, Griner stood tall again.
“You might better change the way you think about guarding her,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “They said they weren’t going to do much different.”
Griner was coming off 30 points and eight blocks in Baylor’s victory Tuesday night against West Virginia, when she sat on the bench the final 9:20 of the first half with two fouls.
This time, she sat the final 5:51 of the half with 13 points after two fouls in a 14-second span.
Next up for Baylor is a very familiar foe.
Baylor plays Texas A&M (30-5) on Tuesday night, and the winner goes to the NCAA Final Four. It is a rematch of the Big 12 championship game three weeks ago, when the Aggies jumped out to a 12-0 lead before Baylor recovered to beat their conference rival for the third time this season, 61-58.
The Aggies advanced with a 79-38 victory against Georgia earlier Sunday that was never close.
Sims, the freshman playing only a few miles from home, finished with 18 points, four assists and three steals. That was plenty to offset a season-high eight turnovers.
Griner was 15 of 21 from the field and made all 10 of her free throws.
Kayla Tetschlag led Green Bay with 27 points and 10 rebounds. Celeste Hoewisch had 20 points.
The Phoenix finished with 34 rebounds, the same as Baylor, with an impressive 21 offensive boards, despite Griner usually clogging the middle.
Griner’s two quick fouls came after she tried to block a shot by Stephanie Sension, and when she was called for a charge against the 6-3 forward who is Green Bay’s tallest player. The Lady Bears were up by 13 when Griner went to the bench for the rest of the first half.
Green Bay took advantage with a 12-3 run and was within 34-30 when Hoewisch hit a 3-pointer with 2:36 left.
Coach Matt Bollant called a timeout with 9 seconds left after consecutive Phoenix turnovers led to baskets by Brooklyn Pope that stretched Baylor’s lead to 40-32.
Bollant settled down his team and set up what was expected to be a half-ending play, but Hoewisch found an opening and got the pass to Tetschlag for a layup. Only problem was that left 4 seconds on the clock, enough for Sims to bank in a 3-pointer from well beyond the arc as the buzzer sounded for a 43-34 lead.
Despite being only 5-foot-7, Hoewisch wasn’t scared of Griner’s presence, going inside several times. When she drove, got knocked down and had her shot swatted away by Griner, Hoewisch looked up at the official, holding her arms out in disbelief that no foul was called.
On another play before halftime, Hoewisch penetrated and stopped on the left side of the lane with Griner in her path, then swung the ball around Baylor’s center to Tetschlag for an easy layup to get the Phoenix within 24-17 a few minutes before Griner’s second foul.
But Hoewisch absorbed the full brunt of Baylor’s big center midway through the second half. When she came up from behind to try to provide defensive help, Hoewisch was called for a foul when Griner fell on top of her.