WACO, Texas — So much has changed for No. 10 Tennessee since playing Baylor nine months ago in an NCAA regional.
Except for the final result.
Brittney Griner and the third-ranked Lady Bears got off to a fast start in the rematch, scoring the first 17 points on the way to a surprisingly easy 76-53 win over the Lady Vols on Tuesday night.
“We just went up against a tough Baylor team, and didn’t come ready to play in the first half,” new head Tennessee head coach Holly Warlick said. “That had a lot to do with Baylor’s defense and their presence.”
And the Lady Bears’ experience.
Baylor (9-1) still has all five starters from its 40-0 national championship team. The Lady Vols returned none from last season and now have a lineup featuring no seniors and one junior.
Tennessee had still won seven in a row, including four games against Top 25 teams, since opening its first season under under Warlick with a loss at Tennessee-Chattanooga.
In their rematch of last year’s NCAA regional final, a 77-58 Lady Bears victory in what was Tennessee coach Pat Summitt’s final game last March, the Lady Vols trailed 41-16 at the half. That was their largest halftime deficit ever.
“I think we just came in a little too antsy. It was a big game, and we just were a little too pressed,” Cierra Burdick said. “We couldn’t buy a shot and that really hurt us, and we let our offense dictate the rest of the game.”
Tennessee missed its first 11 shots and trailed 17-0 before Burdick’s long jumper 7 minutes into the game.
Griner scored the first six points of the game, and had nine of Baylor’s first 11 points in less than 4 minutes. The Lady Bears won their seventh in a row since losing to top-ranked Stanford a week into the season.