DES MOINES, Iowa — Baylor has just two wins to go for 40-0. Tennessee’s future is far less certain.
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 Monday night to advance to the Final Four.
Shekinna Strickland had 22 points for Tennessee (27-9), whose seniors became its 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.
The Lady Bears (38-0), who are back in the national semifinals for the second time in three years, will face Stanford on Sunday night in Denver.
Baylor’s Odyssey Sims, who led the Bears with 27 points, tumbled to the floor with 46.8 seconds left, and she and Strickland had to be separated. 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.
Should Baylor win it all next week, it’ll become the first men’s or women’s team in NCAA history to finish a year with 40 wins.
As for Summitt, she was given a standing ovation from Tennessee and Baylor fans alike when she came out roughly 15 minutes before tipoff. But as defeat became apparent, she sat silently on the bench with her legs crossed.
Summitt has 1,098 wins, more than any basketball coach in NCAA history.
But Baylor was too much for her Lady Vols.
STANFORD 81, DUKE 69: Nnemkadi Ogwumike will end her sensational senior season right where she has the rest: at the Final Four.
Ogwumike made it happen on both ends of the floor with 29 points and nine rebounds Monday night despite constant double-teams, sending top-seeded Stanford past No. 2 seed Duke 81-69 in the Fresno Regional final for the Cardinal’s fifth straight Final Four berth.
Little sister, Chiney, did plenty to seal the Denver trip, too — along with everybody else. Chiney Ogwumike grabbed 17 rebounds to go with 12 points and freshman Amber Orrange came through with 13 points and four assists as the Cardinal extended their school-record winning streak to 32 games.
Nneka Ogwumike is headed back to the Final Four in her NCAA tournament farewell with that elusive championship still in reach. Stanford (35-1) is looking for the program’s first title since 1992.
Chelsea Gray had 23 points, four rebounds and four assists and Shay Selby scored 11 in her final college game for Duke (27-6), which fell short of reaching the program’s first Final Four since 2006. The Blue Devils of former UMaine coach Joanne P. McCallie never got clicking on offense the way they had in their three NCAA wins.
“It was a good run,” SeIby said. “I think this one probably hurt the most. When you’re a sophomore or junior, it’s, ‘Oh, you have next year.’ I have no next year. Hopefully I can say I left something with them that will help them for next year.”
The projected No. 1 pick in the WNBA draft, Nneka Ogwumike scored in the paint, on the perimeter, on leaping putbacks and even by knocking down a pretty 10-foot turnaround jumper late in the first half as the Cardinal built a comfortable 40-25 lead at the break.
“It was unfortunate for us. We tried to defend the inside and the outside. They hit some nice shots,” McCallie said.
Stanford boasted a strong rooting section that made the three-hour trip from the Bay Area to the Save Mart Center, including Cardinal football coach David Shaw and his wife, Kori. The couple sat alongside former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
In a matchup dubbed “nerd on nerd” by Chiney Ogwumike for the schools’ rigorous academic standards, Stanford’s smart girls aced their latest final. But this group has its sights set on winning two more to make good on the most important test and give Hall of Fame 26th-year coach Tara VanDerveer another long-awaited trophy for the case back on The Farm.
Just as she has wanted all season during a challenging schedule featuring games with Connecticut, Tennessee, Texas and Xavier, VanDerveer got contributions from most everybody in a balanced effort.
Joslyn Tinkle knocked down two 3-pointers in the opening five minutes and also made an early steal, then hit another 3 with 4:26 left that put Stanford ahead by 13. She finished with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists.
On Saturday, Nneka Ogwumike almost single handedly carried the load, scoring 39 points in a 76-60 regional semifinal win over South Carolina.
“What I really liked about this game is we got contributions from different people,” VanDerveer said.
Gray, with another 50 or so family and friends cheering the guard who grew up about 75 miles north in Stockton, converted a three-point play with 10:46 remaining to pull Duke within 52-44, but the Cardinal answered yet again. Toni Kokenis rolled in a 3 on the other end.
Selby, who had a quiet night until midway through the second half, made a three-point play with 9:48 to go to keep her team close. But Duke missed three key scoring opportunities the next time down.
The Blue Devils switched to a zone in the second half after that same move worked so well in a 74-47 rout of St. John’s, but Orrange and Kokenis successfully drove and dished — and they also handled Duke’s trap press. Kokenis had eight of Stanford’s 21 assists.
“First, we allowed them to get 81 points. We’re not going to beat a team if it doesn’t start on defense,” Gray said. “They’re a very strong group. If one doesn’t have the shot the other one is looking for them.”
Elizabeth Williams, Duke’s star 6-foot-3 freshman playing with a stress fracture in her lower right leg, quickly scored to make it 48-39. She scored 12 points while playing much of the game in foul trouble.
Stanford got a scare with 6:51 left in the first half when Nneka Ogwumike scored on a drive to make it 30-16 and then turned into Kathleen Scheer’s right elbow. She briefly went down and took a seat for all of 1:23.
Stanford began the game 7 for 11 and had assists on each of those baskets, and the Cardinal limited Duke to one attempt thanks to Chiney Ogwumike’s six rebounds in the opening 8½ minutes. Stanford held a 9-3 rebounding advantage after getting outboarded 38-36 against South Carolina two nights earlier. That became a focus for both teams in this game.
Duke was held to just 39.7 percent from the field, going 3 for 14 from 3-point range. That was a big change for a Blue Devils team that had shot above 50 percent in the first half of its previous six games, and went 53.7 percent overall Saturday night to follow up its season-best 65.6-percent performance from the field in a 96-80 second-round win over Vanderbilt in which they dished out 28 assists.