UConn loses 2nd-half lead against Baylor again
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The story was similar to last season: UConn jumped out to a double-digit lead on Baylor, but couldn't hold on.
Too much Brittney Griner.
Griner scored 21 of her 25 points in the second half, including the 3,000th of her career, to extend top-ranked Baylor's winning streak to 23 games with a 76-70 victory over No. 3 Connecticut on Monday night. The reigning AP player of the year became the eighth women's player in Division I history to reach the milestone, doing it on two free throws with 1:05 left.
Last season UConn had an 11-point lead in Waco in the second half before Baylor rallied for a five-point win.
"It's the second time where we let the game slip away," said Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who had 26 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Huskies. "We had them last year at Baylor and gave it back. Today, I don't know how much we were up, but we came out and we were killing them on the boards, getting stops on defense and then gave it back again."
The Huskies hope they will get another shot at Baylor in the NCAA tournament, most likely at the Final Four.
"I've always said this is why you want to play these games at this time of the year because if we didn't play this game tonight, we might have played a team we beat 100-35," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Playing a game like this with a month before the NCAA tournament, I can't think of anything better to do at this point of the season. Absolutely it's going to help. There's no way it can't help you."
Baylor (25-1) went 40-0 last season en route to the school's second national championship, and its only loss this season came in Hawaii against Stanford back in November. Griner and her talented teammates hadn't really been challenged since, with no opponent coming within single digits.
But when UConn built a seven-point lead in the second half, the Lady Bears were ready.
"It's always good to give yourself a gauge of what you need to work on," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I told them at halftime, it's been a long time since we've had to execute on offense. We're so athletic and so good and so talented, we just go play basketball. But against good teams who play great defensively, you must execute. And we needed to do some things better in the second half."
Griner and fellow preseason All-America Odyssey Sims had a tough first half, combining to shoot 3 for 19 from the field. They responded after halftime, though.
"As well as we played defensively in the first half, it should have been a 15-point game instead of a three-point game," Auriemma said. "That changes everything."
Baylor, which has already clinched the Big 12 regular-season title, led 54-53 midway through the second half before Griner took over. She scored seven points during a quick burst, and her putback made it 67-61 with 5 minutes left.
UConn (24-2) rallied behind Mosqueda-Lewis to make it a 67-65, but Griner answered with a putback. Then she hit the two milestone free throws 1:30 later to make it 73-67, all but sealing the win.
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