Baylor's hopes for a 40-0 national championship season very nearly took a major hit tonight in a game the Lady Bears won by 19 over the Lady Volunteers of Tennessee. With :46 left in the second half, Tennessee's Shekinna Stricklen committed a hard foul on Baylor's Odyssey Sims that knocked Sims to the floor before standing over her and gesturing angrily. Sims, who is not exactly known for her restraint, reacted vociferously and the players had to be separated. The situation should have ended there, but three of Baylor's players, Griner, Condrey, and one other (Palmer, I believe) left the bench area. Baylor is lucky that the situation on the court didn't escalate at that point because NCAA rules dictate that any player who leaves the bench to participate in an on-court altercation is suspended for the following game. Here is the official rule:
When anyone other than the head coach leaves the bench and enters the playing court but does not participate in the fight, only one technical foul shall be assessed regardless of the number of offenders. The offender(s) shall be ejected but not subject to suspension.
Rule 10, Section 4, Article 8.
Since there wasn't judged to be a fight on the court and there was nothing for the players that entered the court, including Griner, to participate in, no Baylor players will be suspended for the Lady Bears' Final Four game on Sunday. Good, but unnecessary, news, and I'm sure Coach Mulkey has already delivered the message that you do not, under any circumstances, leave the bench in that kind of situation.
The game was also noteworthy in that it was likely the last time WBB fans will get to see legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt helm the Lady Volunteers. Summitt, who is battling early-onset dementia, hasn't announced her intentions yet for next season, but recent reports I've read don't sound good for her long-term prognosis, and she has ceded control of the program to long-time associate head coach Holly Warlick, her likely successor. The handshake between Mulkey and her former Olympic coach Summitt when the game ended was particularly poignant, as Mulkey could be seen mouthing the words "I love you" to a coach she clearly cares quite a bit about.
We're waiting now to find out which of Stanford or Duke the Lady Bears will play in that game, but I'm glad they'll be doing it at full strength.