• Lady Bears return to Final Four for second time in three years

    Brittney Griner vs. TennesseeDenver-area Bears, get ready — the Lady Bears are headed your way.

    Wins in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight — Baylor’s 37th and 38th of the season without a loss — have propelled the women’s basketball team to its second Final Four in three years. The No. 1-ranked Lady Bears will face fellow No. 1 seed Stanford on Sunday in the national semifinals with an eye toward claiming the program’s second national championship.

    Destiny Williams (18 points vs. Georgia Tech in Saturday’s Sweet 16 match-up) and Odyssey Sims (27 points Monday night vs. Tennessee in the Elite Eight) vied for weekend MVP honors, but the best player in women’s college basketball, Brittney Griner, was again the star of the show.

    [LINKS: Highlights and photos vs. Georgia Tech || Highlights and photos vs. Tennessee || ESPN breaks down the dunk || BG off the court, kayaking and longboarding || ESPNW: “Mulkey’s life a highlight reel of Title IX success“]

    In an 83-68 win over the Yellow Jackets, Griner poured in 35 points to go along with 10 rebounds and six blocks, but drew the most eyes when she threw down a two-handed dunk in the second half — her second dunk in as many games. Then against the Lady Vols, the junior just missed a triple-double with 23 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks as Baylor won 77-58 in what could be the final game for legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who is suffering from early onset dementia.

    Of course, the week couldn’t go by without more honors for the Lady Bears. Griner and Sims were named among the 12 finalists for the State Farm Wade Trophy, given annually to the national player of the year. Head coach Kim Mulkey was announced by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association as one of eight finalists for the WBCA National Coach of the Year award. And Griner’s two dunks were named SportsCenter’s No. 3 highlight of the entire NCAA tournament (men’s or women’s).

    [AVAILABLE: Lady Bears Final Four t-shirts (here, here and here) and other Lady Bears gear from the Baylor Bookstore || Pre-order Baylor Press’ book on the Lady Bears’ 2011-12 season]

    As I write, a crowd is expectantly gathering at the Waco airport’s Texas Aero building to greet the team when it arrives home; the Lady Bears are expected back right around midnight late Monday/early Tuesday.

    Sic ’em in the Final Four, Lady Bears!

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