By Parmida Schahhosseini
No. 1 Lady Bears defeated No. 3 UConn 76-70 in front of a sellout crowd in Connecticut Monday night. Everybody in the stands wore pink in support of the Play 4Kay Challenge to support breast cancer awareness.
“It is a great game that we agreed to play, but it’s great for fans, it’s great for TV and it’s great for women’s basketball,” head coach Kim Mulkey said.
Despite only scoring four points in the first half, senior center Brittney Griner scored 21 in the second half, reaching another milestone Monday night with 3,000 career points. She is only the eight person in women’s Division I history to achieve this mark.
Connecticut asserted itself early. Baylor struggled in the opening minutes, shooting 1-6 in the first four minutes as Connecticut’s zone defense put pressure on Baylor. Connecticut went on a 12-2 run as they outrebounded Baylor early in the game with their physical presence. However, Baylor responded and went on a 7-0 run.
Both teams turned the ball over multiple times with early travel calls, but they settled down and began to play physical ball without turnovers.
The game got physical as senior forward Destiny Williams was hit in the face, causing a contact to fall out of her eye.
Baylor’s defense left Connecticut scoreless for about four minutes, but Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma called a timeout and as a result, its offense picked up the pace, scoring five quick points after Baylor was within four. Connecticut had success when they engaged Griner. When Mulkey took Griner out, the offense began to free up and score. However, Mulkey put Griner back in and the offense and she draw defenders in to get her teammates open shots. Baylor ended the half going on a 8-2 run as junior guard Odyssey Sims stole the ball and passed it to Hayden for the a score.
Griner got a flagrant foul just after the start of the second half, extending the lead. Connecticut made both free throws, but Baylor came back, scoring eight quick points. The lead change went back and forth as Connecticut and Baylor made back-to-back 3-point jumpers.
With 12:05 left in the game, Baylor’s offense picked up as they scored 21 points in the half compared to the 26 points they had the whole first half. Connecticut went back to zone defense, but Griner found the gap and scored. Both all-Americans asserted themselves, becoming a factor in the second half.
Just as it seems that Baylor will run away with the game, Connecticut scored four quick points to cut the lead to two. Baylor responded as Griner made a 2-point jumper, making her just two points shy of 3,000 points.
Connecticut made a 3-point jumper with 26 seconds left, but after a clutch free throw by Williams Baylor went on to win. After shooting for 27 percent in the first half, Baylor shot 61 percent in the second half to come out on top.
The Lady Bears will next take on Texas at noon Saturday in the Ferrell Center.