By Pranay Malempati | Sports Writer
The No. 6 Lady Bears earned their first top-ten win of the season by beating the undefeated and top-ranked Connecticut Huskies 74-58 Thursday night on UConn’s home floor, ending the Huskies’ 98-game home winning streak.
Not only did Baylor become the first team to drop UConn on their home floor since Notre Dame in 2013, but are also the first to defeat the No. 1 team in the country for two straight seasons since Duke did in 2006 and 2007.
The game was close for three quarters and the Lady Bears entered the final period with just a 55-52 lead. But Baylor finished the game in dominating fashion. The defense put the clamps on, holding Connecticut to only six points in the fourth.
Sophomore forward NaLyssa Smith closed the game for Baylor. Up 57-54 with under five minutes remaining, Smith went on a personal 10-0 run to give the Lady Bears a 13-point cushion.
Senior forward Lauren Cox, the preseason favorite for National Player of the Year, returned from a stress reaction just two games ago and seemed to find her footing against UConn. Cox put up 16 points, along with six rebounds, four blocks and four assists.
Coming off a career-high performance versus Oklahoma in the Big 12 opener, grad transfer Te’A Cooper led the game against the Huskies with 27 points. It was her 11th game in double digits this season. Smith finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, notching her fifth double-double of the season.
Baylor got the victory by playing a style of basketball unusual for them. Normally, the Lady Bears are known for dominating inside and winning in the paint. While the two teams had very close total rebounding numbers, UConn had 17 offensive boards to just nine for Baylor. Further, Baylor took 21 threes, connecting on seven. Coming into this game, the Lady Bears averaged just over 10 three-point attempts per game.
The Huskies entered the game scoring over 80 points per game and shooting 49.1 percent from the field. Baylor held them to 58 points and 29 percent shooting, well under those numbers. That was partly due to UConn forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa putting up a donut in the scoring column. Nelson-Ododa entered the game averaging 13 points per game, but was 0-8 from the field Thursday.
Even though Baylor knocked off the top team in the country, both Cooper and head coach Kim Mulkey said after the game that this team still has room to improve.
“We didn’t have our best game, but we played a good game. 75 – 80 percent [of our potential],” Cooper said postgame to ESPN’s Holly Rowe.
The Lady Bears return to conference play against Oklahoma State at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Ferrell Center for their first Big 12 home game. The game will be broaodcast on ESPNU.