By Noah Trister
Associated Press Sports Writer
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — Brittney Griner took a pass from a teammate, stepped toward the basket, stretched out her right arm and slammed the ball through.
Then the Baylor star reacted in typically modest fashion.
“I think my team got fired up a little bit more than me. I got a little bit more fired up, I think, on one of the blocks I had,” Griner said. “But it definitely felt good throwing it down.”
Griner became the second woman to dunk in an NCAA tournament game Tuesday night, and top-seeded Baylor rolled to a 76-57 win over ninth-seeded Florida. The 6-foot-8 junior phenom went nearly 12 minutes without scoring at the beginning of the game, but she finished with 25 points.
The highlight, of course, was Griner’s dunk early in the second half.
“That wasn’t just a barely-over-the-rim type of dunk. That was a monster dunk,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “I think Brittney is so conscious of people writing good or bad about the dunk that she’s scared to get excited sometimes and celebrate a dunk, because she’s been written about in a negative way. I said, ‘Honey, if I could dunk it, I’d do backflips down the floor.’”
Odyssey Sims added 14 points for Baylor (36-0). Azania Stewart led Florida (20-13) with 14.
Candace Parker of Tennessee dunked twice in an NCAA tournament game in 2006 against Army. Griner’s dunk was her first of the season and sixth of her career. Parker holds the career record with seven.
Baylor led 35-26 at halftime, but Griner was only beginning to assert herself.
She scored eight points in the first half, including six in the final 3:56.
“It was hard to get her touches,” Mulkey said. “I go back to what I’ve said all along. I don’t care how you guard Griner. We’ve seen it all. If you guard her with two and three, the other positions are going to be exposed and we will score. If you guard her with one — you saw what happened tonight when they guarded her with one.”
Griner began the second half with a turnaround and a layup. Then Kimetria Hayden came up with an offensive rebound near the basket and passed to an open Griner, who dunked for the first time since Feb. 19, 2011, at Texas Tech.
The Lady Bears led 41-28, although Florida didn’t exactly crumble.
“We talked about it in the locker room. We know she’s capable of doing that. She’s does it in warmups,” Stewart said. “We said that if they make a big 3 or she dunks, we have to get the ball in and out quickly. It didn’t affect us, I don’t think. It’s a great play — most women can’t do that.”
Baylor hasn’t lost since falling in the quarterfinals of last year’s NCAA tournament. The Lady Bears will face fourth-seeded Georgia Tech in the round of 16 on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.
Griner began this tournament quietly, playing only 22 minutes in Baylor’s first-round rout of UC Santa Barbara. She delighted the crowd Tuesday with her dunking display in warmups, at one point throwing down a two-handed effort and pulling herself up toward the rim.
When the game started, Griner was called for an early charging foul when she tried to dribble coast to coast following a defensive rebound. She didn’t attempt a shot until about midway through the half and didn’t score until a layup with 8:18 remaining.
The Gators used a zone defense to deny Griner the ball inside, and although Baylor led 26-11 at one point, Florida answered with a 9-0 run. Griner then scored six quick points for the Lady Bears — two free throws, a putback and a shot from out near the free throw line. The Gators kept answering for the rest of the half, but that stretch was a sign of things to come for Griner.
Griner went 8 of 14 from the field with nine rebounds and six blocks. Florida beat Ohio State in the first round, defiantly holding off the Buckeyes in front of a partisan crowd in northwest Ohio. The Gators didn’t back down from Baylor either. At one point in the second half, Deana Allen lost her left shoe while going to the basket. She hustled back and played an entire defensive possession without it.