The 6-8 Griner has blocked 24 shots in the past two games for Baylor, which erased a 55-50 deficit with a 21-1 run. "She was the X factor," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said.
Griner's 26 blocks in the NCAA Tournament ranks her second in history. Duke's Alison Bales holds the record with 30 in 2006. "You're watching a phenom out here play above the rim," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "That's what needs to be written in every article from this day forward, because she's such a sweet child, as you can see."
Shekinna Stricklen led Tennessee with 18 points and Angie Bjorklund added 12.
The Lady Bears (26-9) will face No. 2 seed Duke tomorrow in Memphis. Baylor's only other round of eight appearance was in 2005, when it won the national championship. "I can't believe it. I'm just really excited that to get to the Elite Eight we had to go through the best, and the best in this region was Tennessee," Baylor's Morghan Medlock said.
The Lady Vols' loss spoiled the highly anticipated matchup between Tennessee and Connecticut, which could have taken place in the national semifinals. The Lady Vols (32-3), who lost in the first round last season, hadn't missed out on the Final Four in back-to-back years since 1993-94.
The teams went back and forth throughout the first half and early in the second, trading the lead 10 times and tying four times. With both 6-6 Kelley Cain and 6-3 Alyssia Brewer on the floor to guard Griner, Tennessee found some success inside and was up 55-50 with just under eight minutes left.
The Lady Vols' orange-clad crowd fell silent as Griner hit back-to-back layups and had a three-point play as part of a 21-1 run. Tennessee turned to its shooters in desperation. Though Bjorklund and Stricklen had managed to hit jumpers in traffic and knock down a few three-pointers in the first half, they missed left and right in the second half.
Until Saturday, Griner had been somewhat tentative on offense since being suspended for two games for throwing a punch against a Texas Tech player in early March.
Duke 66, San Diego State 58: Jasmine Thomas matched her career high with 29 points as Duke reached the Memphis Regional final. The second-seeded Blue Devils (30-5) notched their eighth 30-win season in the past decade. No. 11 San Diego State (23-11) had upset two ranked teams to reach this game.
Stanford 73, Georgia 36: Jayne Appel had 17 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes while playing on a tender right ankle as top-seeded Stanford rolled into the Sacramento Regional final. Kayla Pedersen added 13 points and 15 rebounds in the 25th straight win for the Cardinal (34-1), which will play third-seeded Xavier (a 74-56 winner over Gonzaga) Monday in the regional final. Fifth-seeded Georgia finished 25-9.