DES MOINES, Iowa — Baylor was cruising, the Lady Bears’ reserves were waiting to check in and there seemed to be little excitement.
Then Brittney Griner got behind the Georgia Tech defense and everyone in the arena knew what could be coming.
Baylor’s 6-foot-8 All-American didn’t disappoint.
Griner threw down a two-handed dunk to cap a sensational performance and the Lady Bears stormed into the NCAA regional finals for the third consecutive year with an 83-68 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Griner, who finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks, took a pass from Brooklyn Pope and soared in for her dunk with 6:29 left in yet another rout for the Lady Bears.
“I wanted to get one in this game,” said Griner, who was almost nonchalant about her crowd-pleasing play. “Brooklyn got me the ball and I just went up and slammed it.”
It was the second consecutive game in which Griner 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.
“Even though she dunks in warm-ups all the time, in the game it’s just something that automatically just gets us fired up and really excited,” Baylor’s Odyssey Sims said. “I think we get more excited for her than she does for herself.”
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.
Though her team was hopelessly behind at the time, Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph didn’t feel Griner was rubbing it in with her dunk. Heck, she thought it was cool.
“It doesn’t bother me,” Joseph said. “I think she’s great for the game. I think it’s awesome. Nobody wants to get dunked on, but how many people can actually say I coached in a game where a female basketball player dunked?”
Baylor took control with a 20-0 first-half run and never gave fourth-seeded Tech (26-9) a chance to answer. Sharp-shooting freshman Sydney Wallace led Georgia Tech with 32 points.