Baylor’s loss leaves NCAA women’s bracket open
With Brittney Griner and defending champion Baylor gone, the
NCAA women’s tournament is suddenly wide open.
Louisville did what hardly anyone else could do over the past
two seasons, knocking out the Lady Bears 82-81 in the regional
semifinals Sunday night in one of the biggest stunners in
Baylor (34-2) had won 32 straight games and 74 of 75 behind
Griner, among the greatest players ever in her sport. But the
6-foot-8 star didn’t make a basket until the second half then
committed a foul with 2.6 seconds left that gave Louisville a
chance to win.
Monique Reid made those two foul shots, rescuing the Cardinals
(27-8) after they squandered a 17-point lead in the last 7 1/2
It was a stunning end of a remarkable college career for Griner,
the second-highest scoring player in NCAA history. She also holds
the career records for blocks and dunks.
”I’m just sad,” Griner said. ”I didn’t do what I needed to do
to get my team to the Elite Eight and just disappointment in
Considered a lock for the Final Four – and prohibitive favorites
to win a second straight championship – Griner and her Lady Bears
instead are out early because of Louisville’s carefree offense,
unconventional defense and Reid’s final fearless play.
”I saw Griner coming at me and I was like, `I’m going to have
to get past her.’ I tried to make the layup and she took my head
off,” Reid said.
Louisville went 16 for 25 from 3-point range, tying the NCAA
tournament mark for 3s reached by four other teams and making the
most ever in the regional semifinals or beyond. Shoni Schimmel had
five 3s and 22 points, and Antonita Slaughter hit seven 3s for all
of her 21 points.
Schimmel also had one of the highlight plays of the tournament,
getting bumped by Griner and then getting a right-handed flip over
her head to fall into the basket for what would become a
”She’s Brittney Griner, but I’m Shoni Schimmel, you know? So I
just kept going at her,” Schimmel said.
The Cardinals will play Tennessee in the regional final Tuesday
for a berth in the Final Four. Louisville hasn’t been there since
losing in the national title game in 2009, and the Lady Vols
haven’t made it since winning the 2008 championship.
Both No. 1 seeds on that half of the bracket have been
eliminated, with Stanford – the only team to beat Baylor the past
two seasons – losing to Georgia on Saturday.
”If Louisville can hit 16 3s in a game, good Lord, they’ll win
a national championship,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said.
Odyssey Sims scored 29 points, including two free throws with
9.1 seconds to go that put Baylor ahead for the only time at 81-80.
Sims had one more chance to save the season, but she was off-target
and late on a desperation heave.
Sims dropped to the floor after her miss, pulling her jersey
over her face and kicking her legs as she lay flat on her back.
Griner squatted near her and slapped the floor with both hands
before pulling Sims up to her feet. Afterward, Griner tweeted out
an apology ”for letting everyone down.” Just a few days earlier,
she had tweeted at halftime of a blowout against Florida State that
she needed two more dunks – then came out and did it.
”It’s a tough way to lose,” said Mulkey, who harshly
criticized the game officials. ”It’s hard to lose when it’s your
last game, but it’s even harder the way that game ended. Makes it a
Griner, who had averaged 33 points in Baylor’s first two games
in the tournament, didn’t make a basket until she converted a
putback with 15:20 left in the second half. She wound up with 14
points and 10 rebounds, making only four of her 10 shots and being
a relative non-factor for her considerable stature.
Louisville surrounded Griner as she has been most of her career,
using a zone defense Louisville coach Jeff Walz called the ”claw
and one.” He put one player in front of Griner and another behind
her, and often another one in the vicinity.
”I think I could smell what toothpaste she used,” Slaughter
said. ”I was in her face the whole time with my hands up.”
Unusually, Griner’s teammates were unable to hit outside shots
and relieve the pressure. It was Sims who finally fueled a 24-6
comeback when the barrage of 3-pointers stopped.
She hit both free throws after Walz was called for a technical
foul for protesting Bria Smith’s fifth foul then made a runner to
get the Lady Bears within 78-76 with 1:49 to play. Sims then
answered Megan Deines’ layup with a 3-pointer to cut it to one with
35.8 seconds left before Jude Schimmel’s turnovers set up her free
throws to give Baylor a short-lived lead.
The win made it quite a day for Louisville. Hours earlier, the
men’s team beat Duke 85-63 to reach the Final Four. Part of Walz’s
pregame message to the team was about the gruesome leg injury
suffered by Kevin Ware in the men’s game, telling his players that
basketball is still a game.
”I told our kids in the locker room before the game, we’ve got
to turn this thing into a street ball game. You’ve got to drive and
kick for 3s and try to make it fun. There was no pressure on us,”
”We came out and did that, and I’m honored to coach this group
of young ladies.”