No. 2 Baylor 65, No. 6 Tennessee 54

Brittney Griner charged out toward Taber Spani on the wing,

blocked her shot and howled. Then Griner turned toward the dozens

of football players sitting under the basket and transformed from a

ferocious 6-foot-8 post player to just another college

sophomore.

She smiled and gave a little wave.

Griner and the second-ranked Lady Bears gave everyone in a

record crowd plenty to cheer about Tuesday night in a 65-54 victory

over No. 6 Tennessee that wasn’t nearly as close as it looks.

Griner had 21 points and nine blocks, and provided an obstacle

for the Lady Vols on every possession. Brooklyn Pope swatted four

more shots and freshman Odyssey Sims led Baylor with a season-high

24 points.

Note to the rest of women’s basketball: Sims is a freshman,

Griner and Pope are sophomores. So they are all still getting

better.

”They were just too tough for us,” Tennessee coach Pat Summitt

said. ”We didn’t match their intensity the way we needed to.”

Fans lined up more than three hours before tipoff, excited by

the matchup and lured by free bobbleheads of coach Kim Mulkey. A

total of 10,569 folks crammed into the Ferrell Center, the most

ever for a basketball game at Baylor, men’s or women’s. The crowd

gave Summitt a standing ovation and polite applause as she made her

way to the bench for pregame warmups, then were on their feet the

rest of the game.

The Lady Bears led the entire way. With Griner swatting shots

and altering others, the Lady Vols missed their first eight shots

of the game and their last eight of the first half. At halftime,

Tennessee had eight baskets and Griner had six blocks.

Baylor closed the first half with an 11-0 run. The Lady Bears

led by at least seven points the rest of the way, although they

were never able to stretch it beyond 15. That inability was

Mulkey’s biggest regret on an otherwise impressive night.

”Any moment you kept waiting for it to get bigger and bigger,”

Mulkey said. ”We’ll get better.”

Meighan Simmons scored 22 points for Tennessee and Angie

Bjorklund scored 10. But that was really it. Nobody else scored

more than five.

”I think we learned that we have a long ways to go,” Bjorklund

said. ”We have to stay positive, get back in the gym and learn

from our mistakes. I think this was a good test for us.”

The Lady Vols made 18 field goals and had 13 shots blocked.

Their shooting percentage was .250, the lowest for any Baylor

opponent all season – which is saying something considering other

non-conference foes have included Montana State, Texas Southern,

Liberty and Southeastern Louisiana.

”I’ve played Pat-coached teams since 1980 and I’m not sure any

team I’ve been affiliated with any that has held them to 25 percent

shooting,” Mulkey said. ”That’s a glaring stat. We take pride in

that.”

Griner said she thinks she’s a little better shot-blocker than

she was last season. Again, that’s saying something considering she

set the NCAA Division I season record.

She acknowledged she was fired up by the crowd, including those

football players.

”They were in my ear the whole game, talking to me and pumping

me up,” she said. ”It wasn’t anyone in particular. I definitely

recognized a couple of voices.”

Star quarterback Robert Griffin and all-conference safety Byron

Landor swept the court during one break, with Griffin taking a

microphone and firing everyone up by saying, ”We’re here to

support the Lady Bears. We know you’re here to support the Lady

Bears. This is our house!”

At game’s end, Mulkey got the microphone and told the crowd,

”Thanks for doing this. … Football team, go win a bowl game.

Thank you!”

This was Baylor’s third victory against a ranked team. The only

loss for the Lady Bears was by one point at No. 1 Connecticut.

Tennessee’s other loss was by 11 points to Georgetown, which is

now No. 20.

”It was a great environment and the fans were very obviously

very into it,” Summitt said. ”I like that. I love to go on the

road when you’ve got a packed house and see how our team responds.

It’s good for us.”