Baylor, Brittney Griner face huge challenge against Tennessee
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Prodigy, meet history.
In the first glamour matchup of the NCAA Women's tournament on Saturday, the game's newest sensation will take on its most storied program.
"I hope it's interesting," said Baylor coach
You'd be hard-pressed to tell if Baylor can do that based on the Bears' 49-33 victory over Georgetown on Monday night. The Hoyas had a historically bad shooting night, missing their first 14 shots, shooting just 11.8 percent in the second half and 17 percent for the game. Baylor wasn't much better, shooting 38 percent and turning the ball over 21 times.
But Griner made her presence known. The 6-foot-8 freshman set an NCAA record for blocked shots with 14, breaking a mark set by UNLV's
Griner had more blocked shots than Georgetown had baskets.
Despite the record, Griner revealed plenty of holes in her game. She scored only seven points and pulled down seven rebounds in 27 minutes.
"She looked like a freshman," Mulkey said. "She's a player who draws a lot of attention."
That's an understatement. In the past three weeks, Griner has drawn more attention than she could ever want. She punched Texas Tech player
No one could predict how Griner would respond in her first NCAA tournament. But she came to Berkeley composed and contrite, answering all the questions put to her.
"I've learned from my mistake," she said. "I would like people not to judge me off that one incident. It'll never happen again."
Griner's actions -- combined with other incidents such as the New Mexico soccer player
"I just feel like it's competitive," Griner said. "People look at women's sports as not as competitive as the boys so it's more shocking, I guess. But women are just as competitive. You're starting to see that.
"Though," she added, "that's not the right way for it to come out."
Mulkey scoffed at the concept that things are getting more aggressive. She thinks the uproar is an outcome of both women's sports gaining more visibility and the 24-7 news cycle.
"It's exposure," said Mulkey, who starred at Louisiana Tech in the early 1980s. "You think it hasn't been going on since when I played?"
For Griner and Baylor, the best way to put the controversy behind them is to create a conversation about other things. Griner -- who says she became known as "YouTube girl" because of the number of hits on videos of her dunking in high school -- has yet to dunk in the tournament. But setting a NCAA record for blocked shots in her second NCAA game wasn't a bad start.
Griner usually dominates the paint. But she'll face a tough matchup in Tennessee. The Lady Vols sophomore center
The teams met in the opener this season, with Tennessee prevailing 74-65.
"We've grown so much -- on the floor off the floor, in the gym, outside the gym," said Baylor's lone senior,
There's not much history between the teams. This will be only the third time they have met: Other than the November matchup, Baylor lost to Tennessee in the Sweet 16 in 2004.
That year Tennessee was on its way to another national championship game, another notch in its historical record. The prodigy, in contrast, was only 13 and hadn't yet started to play organized basketball.
"We understand what we're up against with Tennessee," Mulkey said. "It's a monumental challenge."