Brittney Griner had 23 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks before being ejected with less than a minute left and top-seeded Baylor rolled over Tennessee 77-58 on Monday night to advance to the Final Four.
Shekinna Stricklen had 22 points for Tennessee (27-9), whose seniors became the first four-year class not to reach a Final Four.
The second-seeded Lady Vols now face an uncertain future, as Pat Summitt has yet to say if she’ll return for a 39th season as Tennessee coach. She announced in August she’d been diagnosed with early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.
“This team is about Pat Summitt. This team has battled all year,” said Tennessee associate head coach Holly Warlick as she fought back tears. “I’m proud of them. I thought our team and coaching staff obviously was in a difficult situation. But I thought this team was responsive. I wouldn’t trade anything that we did this year.”
The Bears (38-0), who are back in the national semifinals for the second time in three years, will face either Stanford, an 81-69 winner over Duke, on Sunday night in Denver.
Baylor held Tennessee to just 30.3 percent shooting from the floor. Much of that was because of the inside presence of the 6-foot-8 Griner, who was just one block shy of her fifth career triple-double.
But a rather ugly game for a purist’s perspective got even uglier in the final 46.8 seconds.
Baylor’s Odyssey Sims, who led the Bears with 27 points, tumbled to the floor, and she and Stricklen had to be separated and were each assessed technical foul.
No punches were thrown, but Griner and teammates Terran Condrey and Jordan Madden were ejected for leaving the bench. The NCAA says none of the players will be suspended for the Final Four.