Griner's Greatness

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

I am a proud Baylor alumnus living on the staked plains of west Texas. I am active in local talk show banter; indeed, I even have a Baylor-centric nickname on one of the shows. I am tolerated by these gentlemen because they know that I am a member of the all-but-one-club. That is, I happily support Texas Tech, inasmuch as it is the local team which feeds our economy and educated my parents, unless they are playing my Bears.

Thus, I attend most Tech sporting events, no matter who is the opponent. I can therefore relate that basketball interest, and thus, attendance this season has been sparse for both genders. However, there was something different in the Lubbock air this week, as the top-ranked Lady Bears were coming to town. People were discussing it at work, and the sports shows couldn't get enough. There was a shared belief that these Lady Raiders could once again topple Griner, Sims et al. This optimism was not unfounded. After all, quite the rivalry had been established between these old SWC foes over time, and it only intensified after the infamous Griner/Barncastle tussle a few years ago. Add to that the fact that Texas Tech was the last team to beat the Lady Bears in conference play, the Lady Raiders possession of second place in this year's Big 12 standings, and $3 tickets being offered to this year's game, and an upset seemed plausible.

I was one of those Lubbockites who could not wait for the game. I knew, from attending this battle the last few years in Lubbock, that the crowd would be raucous. I saw my Lady Bears blow out Notre Dame in South Bend, yet I thought this game would be closer. I argued that people were mistaken to focus solely on Brittney, as our team was balanced: Sims, Hayden, Prince, Pope, Madden... We had a veritable murderer's row that could beat you any given night. Indeed, our team was unveiling their new yellow Nike jerseys which only read "Bears" where one would usually see a last name. I figured Curry, Tech's very likable coach, would be determined not to let our 6'8" All-American beat her on this cold January night.

The event began as anticipated, with the United Spirit Arena buzzing. The cost of tickets coupled with a desire to see these Bears fall at the hands of the Red Raiders created an atmosphere I had not recently seen in Lubbock. Booing commenced every time the Lady Bears came onto the floor; chants of RAIDER POWER echoed from one side of the arena to the other; even Raider Red came out with fake guns literally blazing.

The tip off was a harbinger of things to come, as Tech essentially conceded and sent out a 5'6" player to "challenge" Brittney. However, there would be no David and Goliath in this battle, as I saw the most dominating performance I have witnessed in that arena since Kevin Durant kicked Red Raider booty (and everyone else's) as a Longhorn. Brittney seemed to want to beat the Red Raider players and the vocal crowd into psychological submission. Gone was this thought that the Bears would share the load in this game. Brittney was a one-woman wrecking machine, putting up 40 points, grabbing 15 boards, and swatting 7 Tech shots in the process. Her tenacity and aggressiveness were a sight to behold. She finished with an exclamation point, throwing down an awesome two-handed dunk to get her final two points of the night. The 30 point margin of victory qualified as a rout. If this would be my last chance to see Brittney up close, it did not disappoint.

As Griner walked off the floor, she had to be proud. After all, this hushed arena was the site of one of the worst incidents of her college career. This crowd had never been kind to her, despite her contrition and other-worldly basketball talents. Perhaps the opponent, who played valiantly, had forgotten who they were dealing with. Thus, she probably figured she'd remind them of why she was the reigning Player of the Year and defending NCAA Champion.

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