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Brittney Griner's 21 points, 9 blocks power Baylor past Tennessee

WACO, Texas -- Brittney Griner charged out toward Taber Spani on the wing, blocked her shot and howled. Then Griner turned toward the dozens of football players sitting under the basket and transformed from a ferocious 6-foot-8 post player to just another college sophomore.

She smiled and gave a little wave.

Griner and the Lady Bears (No. 3 ESPN/USA Today, No. 2 AP) gave everyone in a record crowd plenty to cheer about Tuesday night in a 65-54 victory over No. 6 Tennessee that wasn't nearly as close as it looks.

Griner had 21 points and nine blocks, and provided an obstacle for the Lady Vols on every possession. Brooklyn Pope swatted four more shots and freshman Odyssey Sims led Baylor with a season-high 24 points.

Note to the rest of women's basketball: Sims is a freshman, Griner and Pope are sophomores. So they are all still getting better.

"They were just too tough for us," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt said. "We didn't match their intensity the way we needed to."

Fans lined up more than three hours before tipoff, excited by the matchup and lured by free bobbleheads of coach Kim Mulkey. A total of 10,569 folks crammed into the Ferrell Center, the most ever for a basketball game at Baylor, men's or women's. The crowd gave Summitt a standing ovation and polite applause as she made her way to the bench for pregame warmups, then were on their feet the rest of the game.

The Lady Bears led the entire way. With Griner swatting shots and altering others, the Lady Vols missed their first eight shots of the game and their last eight of the first half. At halftime, Tennessee had eight baskets and Griner had six blocks.

Baylor closed the first half with an 11-0 run. The Lady Bears led by at least seven points the rest of the way, although they were never able to stretch it beyond 15. That inability was Mulkey's biggest regret on an otherwise impressive night.

"Any moment you kept waiting for it to get bigger and bigger," Mulkey said. "We'll get better."

Meighan Simmons scored 22 points for Tennessee and Angie Bjorklund scored 10. But that was really it. Nobody else scored more than five.

"I think we learned that we have a long ways to go," Bjorklund said. "We have to stay positive, get back in the gym and learn from our mistakes. I think this was a good test for us."

The Lady Vols made 18 field goals and had 13 shots blocked. Their shooting percentage was .250, the lowest for any Baylor opponent all season -- which is saying something considering other nonconference foes have included Montana State, Texas Southern, Liberty and Southeastern Louisiana.

"I've played Pat-coached teams since 1980 and I'm not sure any team I've been affiliated with any that has held them to 25 percent shooting," Mulkey said. "That's a glaring stat. We take pride in that."

Griner said she thinks she's a little better shot-blocker than she was last season. Again, that's saying something considering she set the NCAA Division I season record.

She acknowledged she was fired up by the crowd, including those football players.

"They were in my ear the whole game, talking to me and pumping me up," she said. "It wasn't anyone in particular. I definitely recognized a couple of voices."

Star quarterback Robert Griffin and all-conference safety Byron Landor swept the court during one break, with Griffin taking a microphone and firing everyone up by saying, "We're here to support the Lady Bears. We know you're here to support the Lady Bears. This is our house!"

At game's end, Mulkey got the microphone and told the crowd, "Thanks for doing this. ... Football team, go win a bowl game. Thank you!"

This was Baylor's third victory against a ranked team. The only loss for the Lady Bears was by one point at No. 1 Connecticut.

Tennessee's other loss was by 11 points to Georgetown (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 20 AP).

"It was a great environment and the fans were very obviously very into it," Summitt said. "I like that. I love to go on the road when you've got a packed house and see how our team responds. It's good for us."