OKLAHOMA CITY — From the opening tip of the season, there was only one question in women’s college basketball: How do you stop Brittney Griner?
Louisville found the answer Sunday night, pulling off one of the biggest upsets in the history of the tournament.
Considered a lock for the Final Four — and prohibitive favorites to win a second straight championship — Griner and her Lady Bears got bounced 82-81 by fifth-seeded Louisville in an NCAA regional semifinal.
“I’m just sad,” Griner said. “I didn’t do what I needed to do to get my team to the Elite Eight and just disappointment in myself.”
Baylor (34-2) had won 32 straight games and 74 of 75 behind Griner, among the greatest players ever in her sport. But the 6-foot-8 star didn’t make a basket until the second half, then committed a foul with 2.6 seconds left that gave Louisville a chance to win.
Monique Reid made those two foul shots, rescuing the Cardinals (27-8) after they squandered a 17-point lead in the last 7½ minutes.
The win made it quite a day for the school — hours earlier, the men’s team from Louisville beat Duke 85-63 to reach the Final Four.
Reid and the Cardinals will play Tennessee in the regional final on Tuesday for a berth in the Final Four.
Odyssey Sims scored 29 points, including two free throws with 9.1 seconds to go that put Baylor ahead 81-80. Sims had one more chance to save the season, but she was off-target and late on a desperation heave.
Sims dropped to the floor after her miss, pulling her jersey over her face and kicking her legs as she lay flat on her back.
Griner squatted near her and slapped the floor with both hands before pulling Sims up to her feet.
It was a stunning end of a remarkable college career for Griner, the second-highest scoring player in NCAA history. She also holds the career records for blocks and dunks.
“It’s a tough way to lose,” coach Kim Mulkey said. “It’s hard to lose when it’s your last game, but it’s even harder the way that game ended. Makes it a little tougher.”
Griner, who had averaged 33 points in Baylor’s first two games in the tournament, didn’t make a basket until she converted a putback with 15:20 left in the second half. She wound up with 14 points and 10 rebounds, making only four of her 10 shots and being a relative non-factor for her considerable stature.
Louisville surrounded Griner as she has been most of her career, using a zone defense Louisville coach Jeff Walz called the “claw and one.” He put one player in front of Griner and another behind her, and often another one in the vicinity.
“I think I could smell what toothpaste she used,” Antonita Slaughter said. “I was in her face the whole time with my hands up.”
Unusually, Griner’s teammates were unable to hit outside shots and relieve the pressure.