Baylor’s Griner 2nd woman to dunk in NCAA tourney

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — It had been over a year since Brittney Griner dunked in a game.

She finally did it again — this time in the NCAA tournament.

Griner became the second woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game Tuesday night, slamming one down with her right hand early in the second half of top-seeded Baylor’s 76-57 win over ninth-seeded Florida.

The 6-foot-8 junior phenom went nearly 12 minutes without scoring at the beginning of the game, but finished with 25 points, including the night’s biggest highlight.

Odyssey Sims added 14 points for Baylor (36-0). Azania Stewart led Florida (20-13) with 14.

Candace Parker of Tennessee dunked twice in an NCAA tournament game in 2006 against Army. Griner’s dunk was her first of the season and sixth of her career. Parker holds the career record with seven.

Baylor led 35-26 at halftime, but Griner was only beginning to assert herself. She scored eight points in the first half, including six in the final 3:56.

Griner began the second half with a turnaround and a layup. Then Kimetria Hayden came up with an offensive rebound near the basket and passed to an open Griner. The Baylor junior stepped toward the basket, stretched out her right arm and dunked for the first time since Feb. 19, 2011, at Texas Tech.

The Lady Bears led 41-28, and although Florida didn’t crumble, the Gators were never really able to make a game of it down the stretch.

Baylor hasn’t lost since falling in the quarterfinals of last year’s NCAA tournament. The Lady Bears will face fourth-seeded Georgia Tech in the round of 16 on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.

Griner began this tournament quietly, playing only 22 minutes in Baylor’s first-round rout of UC Santa Barbara. She delighted the crowd Tuesday with her dunking display in warmups, at one point throwing down a two-handed effort and pulling herself up toward the rim.

When the game started, Griner was called for an early charging foul when she tried to dribble coast to coast following a defensive rebound. She didn’t attempt a shot until about midway through the half and didn’t score until a layup with 8:18 remaining.

The Gators used a zone defense to deny Griner the ball inside, and although Baylor led 26-11 at one point, Florida answered with a 9-0 run.

Griner then scored six quick points for the Lady Bears — two free throws, a putback and a shot from out near the free throw line. The Gators kept answering for the rest of the half, but that stretch was a sign of things to come for Griner.

Griner went 8 of 14 from the field with nine rebounds and six blocks.

Florida beat Ohio State in the first round, defiantly holding off the Buckeyes in front of a partisan crown in northwest Ohio. They didn’t back down from Baylor either. At one point in the second half, Deana Allen lost her left shoe while going to the basket. She hustled back and played an entire defensive possession without it.

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