WACO (AP) – Brittney Griner spent much of the first half watching from the Baylor bench. The Lady Bears held on just fine until she could get back in the game.
Griner had 30 points even after sitting the final 9 minutes of the first half with two fouls, and the top-seeded Bears rolled over West Virginia 82-68 on Tuesday night to reach the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 for the sixth time in eight years.
Baylor (33-2) already had a 14-point lead and Griner had 10 points when she picked up her second foul, but West Virginia managed to only trim that deficit to 11 points by halftime.
The 6-foot-8 standout sophomore re-established herself after halftime, taking advantage of the one-on-one coverage that West Virginia had said it would be willing to play against the Big 12 player of the year.
After the Mountaineers (24-10) had a turnover to open the second half, Griner was fighting for position under the basket when she signaled point guard Odyssey Sims. Next came a lob pass to Griner, who took a step behind the defender and converted an easy layup.
West Virginia lost senior guard Sarah Miles to a right leg injury with about 16 minutes left. Soon after she went to the locker room, her teammates responded with an inspired a 9-0 run — including a 3-pointer by 6-3 center Ayana Dunning — to close the gap to 58-51.
Griner made sure the Mountaineers got no closer.
After blocking Liz Repella’s shot on West Virginia’s next possession, Griner quickly got the ball on offense and made a strong inside basket. That started a 16-2 run in which Griner had seven points and two assists.
Baylor next plays Wisconsin-Green Bay (34-1) on Sunday in Dallas. The fifth-seeded Phoenix have won 25 games in a row after a 65-56 victory Tuesday night over Michigan State.
Repella had 29 points for West Virginia, which has never gotten past the second round of the NCAA tournament. Vanessa House had 14.
Melissa Jones and Sims both had 13 points for Baylor. Destiny Williams added 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting and had nine rebounds.
Mountaineers coach Mike Carey had said his team wouldn’t change what it did against Griner and Baylor, sticking primarily to the tenacious man-to-man defense. They also planned to go right at Griner when they had the ball.
Right away at the start of the game, Griner got a pass from Sims while going one-on-one against 6-4 center Asya Bussie — the two previously went against each other in an AAU game that both said was a good matchup.
Bussie responded with a quick inside basket against Griner that tied the game.
Miles hit a 12-footer that put West Virginia up and the score went back-and-forth for the first few minutes. Repella hit a 3-pointer that made it 7-6, but Baylor went ahead to stay when Griner had Bussie on her again and passed the ball. Jones grabbed the ball with her right hand going away from the basket along the baseline and made a layup.
Repella picked up her second foul after that, but was only out of the game for a couple of minutes before Madina Ali picked up her second foul and Baylor had already jumped ahead 20-8.
Miles was guarding Sims when both players went hard to the floor in the second half. Miles’ right leg folded awkwardly under her and she remained on the floor grimacing in pain for several minutes before being helped to the locker room.
The senior put no pressure on her right leg when leaving the court, and was using crutches when she rejoined her team on the bench with about 6 minutes left — and when she left the arena after the game ended.
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