Baylor's youth nearly cost the Lady Bears a trip to Final Four, and ended up saving the day.
Celebrated freshman Brittney Griner caught a pass, spun around and hit a short jumper with 45 seconds left to propel fourth-seeded Baylor to a 51-48 win over No. 2 seed Duke on Monday night for its second trip ever to the Final Four.
Duke led the entire second half and held a 46-38 advantage with 4:59 left before a pair of free throws by Kimetria Hayden launched a 13-2 run for the Lady Bears (27-9).
Hayden, also a freshman, stole an inbounds pass by Joy Cheek and dished it to Melissa Jones for a layup with 2:10 left that pulled the Lady Bears within one. Jones, who finished with 10 points, also hit a pair of free throws with 26 seconds left, forcing Duke (30-6) to scramble.
Two 3-point attempts by Cheek in the last 17 seconds bounced off the rim as the Blue Devils' shot at their first Final Four since 2006 slipped away.
Baylor's men's team lost to Duke 78-71 on Sunday in the South Regional final. It was the first time ever that there had been the same regional final matchup in both brackets since the women's tournament began during the 1981-82 season, according to STATS LLC.
Griner just missed her third triple-double of the season, finishing with 15 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks.
Both teams struggled early. Duke missed its first 10 shots from the floor, but Baylor only held a 7-1 lead 5 1/2 minutes into the game.
The game was every bit the defensive battle that was expected, with Baylor shooting 27.6 percent and Duke 24.2 percent in the first half.
Griner, who blocked 14 shots in the second round against Georgetown to set an NCAA tournament single-game record, has 35 through four tournament games. That broke the previous record of 30 by Duke's Alison Bales in 2006.
The Blue Devils have had plenty of experience with slow starts, trailing early in nine of their last 10 games. They slowly warmed up on offense and took a 16-15 lead on a putback layup from Bridgette Mitchell with 6:04 left before halftime.
Karima Christmas scored six straight points in the last 1:30 of the first half to give Duke a 26-21 lead at the break. Christmas finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Blue Devils shot a season-worst 23.1 percent for the game. Duke usually is able to generate points through its defense, but Baylor did a good job of handling the pressure defense.
The Blue Devils entered the game ranked second in the nation with an average 13.3 per contest and had 23 against San Diego State in the regional semifinals but logged only six, ending their streak of 10 straight games with 10 or more thefts.