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, 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 were 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-inch 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 hit those two foul shots, rescuing the Cardinals (27-8) after they squandered a 17-point lead in the last 7½ minutes. 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.
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,” Baylor 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.”
Griner, who had averaged 33 points in Baylor’s first two tournament games, didn’t make a basket until she converted a putback with 15:20 left. She wound up with 14 points and 10 rebounds, making only four of her 10 shots and being a relative nonfactor.
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.”