Griner set for home finale
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Basketball Writer
WACO, Texas — Brittney Griner has played in only one loss at home during her four seasons at Baylor. Junior point guard Odyssey Sims is still undefeated.
“I haven’t really thought about it that way, but I have noticed we haven’t lost a game,” Sims said Monday.
Griner, the 6-foot-8 two-time All-American preparing for her last home game with the Lady Bears (33-1), quickly chimed in with a bit of a clarification.
“She lets us know that she hasn’t lost a game here,” Griner said with a smile. “Don’t let her tell a fib to y’all.”
Baylor plays in the second round of the NCAA tournament against Florida State (23-9) tonight. It will be the last home game for Griner and four other seniors.
The defending national champion Lady Bears have won a nation’s-best 56 in a row at home. With one more victory, they will be in the NCAA round of 16 for the fourth year in a row.
Since the senior trio of Griner, Jordan Madden and Kimetria Hayden got to Waco as freshmen together, Baylor is 71-2 at home. Griner didn’t play in the last home loss, against Texas in the 2009-10 regular-season finale.
The Lady Bears have won every home game the past three seasons — since Sims arrived and when transfers Destiny Williams and Brooklyn Pop, the other seniors, started playing.
“You really forget how hard it is to play at this intense high level night in and night out and not have a slipup,” coach Kim Mulkey said.
“When you look at career of these seniors here, it’s pretty amazing that they can continue to play at such a high level regardless of the opponent. Now, I didn’t say we play good every night, but they do play hard every night — with a target on them.”
Baylor, the No. 1 overall seed, opened the NCAA tournament with an 82-40 victory Sunday night over SWAC tournament champion Prairie View.
Griner had 33 points, 10 rebounds and six blocks against the Lady Panthers. She also had her 15th career dunk, matching the total number of combined dunks by the six other women who have done so in a college game.
“I don’t even think about that too much,” Griner said. “I had the opportunity, I dunked. My teammates, if it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t have those 15. I’d probably have five. … I just play, really.”
What has gone through Griner’s mind is that she’s about to player her final home game at Baylor.
“Last game in the Ferrell. Man, it’s crazy,” Griner said. “Emotional after the game, definitely. Take care of business during the game for sure, then after the game probably a little emotional, a lot more than I was on senior night, just because I knew I had two more (games). So this is my last game here. Just hope it’s not my last game.”
Florida State had lost four of six games before its 60-44 win over Princeton in the NCAA tourney opener at Waco.
The reward for the Seminoles is facing Baylor for Griner’s home finale. After their victory Sunday, they stayed and watched the first half of the Baylor game.
“Our team is not intimidated by them. We’re excited, we’re prepared and we’re ready to play and give them a fight,” Seminoles senior guard Alex Deluzio said.
“We talk about our team chemistry, and I think that’s very powerful. Just go out and have fun and compete. It’s March Madness, anything can happen and we’re prepared for that.”
In her opening statement following the victory over Princeton, Seminoles coach Sue Semrau asked who was the writer who put his bracket in the local newspaper picking Princeton to win. She thanked him for the motivation.
There are certainly few people who would pick Florida State over Baylor.
“Not many people picked Florida Gulf Coast over Georgetown either,” Semrau said Monday, referring to the No. 15 seed on the men’s side going to the round of 16.
“If I had to fill out a bracket and I was not part of my team every day, it’s a pretty good percentage that would go that direction. You go out and play, that’s why you play the game.”
Mulkey said she was disappointed that as of Monday there were still tickets remaining for the last chance to see Griner play at home.
“This building should be sold out. I don’t care if it’s an 8:30 game, I don’t care if it’s a school night,” Mulkey said. “It for sure is going to be her last game in this building. I can’t imagine sitting at home watching that on television and not coming out here and paying $15 or $25 to watch that kid play.”
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