DES MOINES, Iowa - Tennessee's season came to an end with a 77-58 defeat at the hands of No. 1-ranked and undefeated Baylor. The Lady Bears advanced to the Final Four which takes place next Sunday, April 1 in Denver.
The Lady Vols finished the season at 27-9, making an NCAA-record 25th appearance in the Elite Eight. The game marked the final college contest for five Lady Vol seniors: Briana Bass, Vicki Baugh, Glory Johnson, Alicia Manning and Shekinna Stricklen.
Both Stricklen (22 points and 11 rebounds) and Johnson (19 points and 14 rebounds) posted double-doubles to combine for 41 points and 25 rebounds.
Baylor moved to 38-0 overall in its quest to become the first team in NCAA basketball history go 40-0. The Lady Bears take on the winner of the Stanford/Duke Elite Eight game that takes place late Monday. This will be Baylor's third Final Four, as they also went in 2005, when they won the NCAA title and last season.
The Lady Bears were led by Odyssey Sims, who tallied a season-high 27 points. Brittany Griner nearly posted a triple-double with 23 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocked shots. It would have been her fifth-career triple-double. Kimetria Hayden added 18 points.
Baylor used a 14-3 run to take a 19-point lead at 60-41 on a Griner layup and Sims free throws with eight minutes remaining. Tennessee then used a 7-0 spurt to cut the deficit to 11 at 64-53 on a layup by Ariel Massengale with 4:48 left in the second half. But Griner wouldn't be denied as she ended the run with a lay-up seconds later to regain the double-figure advantage for the Lady Bears. A late 10-2 Baylor run ended the Lady Vols' hopes.
The end of the game was marred by an incident between Stricklen and Sims, which saw Griner and some of her teammates come off the bench with 46.8 seconds left to break up the confrontation. Griner, Jordan Madden and Terran Condrey were sent to the locker room with ejections.
Tennessee cut the deficit to eight twice midway through the second half at 46-38 and 44-36. But Baylor once against quickly responded as Hayden converted a 3-point play to move the margin back to 14 at 52-38 with 10:18 left.
The Lady Vols battled back early in the second half to cut the deficit to nine points on a lay-up by Vicki Baugh with 17:58 left in the half, making it 35-26. After Baylor extended the lead back to 13 on a 3-pointer by Sims, the Lady Vols once again cut the margin to nine on a layup by Stricklen with 13:33 left in the second.
Baylor led 35-20 at halftime. Tennessee shot just 21.6 percent in the first half, while Baylor made 41.2 percent from the floor. Hayden led all scorers with 13 points while Sims added 10. Griner was held to eight points and eight rebounds.
The Lady Bears closed the first half on a 31-11 run spanning the final 14 minutes of the half. Griner finished the half with a lay-up to extended Baylor's lead to a game-best 15 points, with 32 seconds left in the half. She blocked two Tennessee shots in the final 30 seconds to rack up her sixth and seventh swats of the first half alone.
Tennessee opened the game by building a 9-4 lead as Stricklen canned a 3-pointer just 3:55 into the game.
Tennessee had advanced to the Final Four from the state of Iowa three times: 1986 (def. Louisiana State, 67-65, in Iowa City), 2002 (def. Vanderbilt, 68-63, in Ames) and the Cinderella Season, 1997 (def. undefeated Connecticut 91-81 in Iowa City).