The UConn women’s basketball team lost their first regular season game since 2014 on Thursday night when they were defeated 68-57 by No. 8 Baylor in front of a sold out crowd at Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas.
The Huskies (11-1) were outscored 52-10 in the paint, largely due to Baylor’s dramatic size advantage. UConn understood the height advantage was going to be a big factor in the matchup but they were hoping to overcome the issue by making shots in transition.
“Because they do have a lot of bigs and they don’t like to run as much, obviously transition scoring is one of our strong suits, so we’re going to try to run a lot and use what we have to our advantage,” Napheesa Collier told The UConn Blog before leaving for Texas.
The strategy did not work as well as the Huskies would have hoped. Baylor’s defense remained rock solid throughout the game and UConn did not see many opportunities in transition. When the Huskies did take a shot, very few of them went in. UConn shot 29 percent overall and recorded their lowest point total of the season.
“What is disappointing for me, is not that we lost,” head coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement posted to the team’s website. “How long did you think we were going to win every game in the regular season, 10 years? So I’m not surprised that we lost, but it was disappointing that we struggled so much on the offensive end.”
UConn’s last regular season loss came against Stanford in double overtime on Nov. 14, 2014. The last time UConn lost in regulation was to Baylor on Feb. 18, 2013. The Lady Bears were the defending national champs that year and had then-senior Britney Griner on their squad.
In yesterday’s matchup, the Huskies only led once, when Crystal Dangerfield scored off a jumper to open the game 2-0. After that, the Huskies remained quiet on offense, shooting 23.5 percent in the first quarter.
“It just felt like everyone was kind of stagnant out there,” Katie Lou Samuelson said in a statement posted to the team’s website. “We weren’t hitting those difficult shots, and sometimes we do, but we don’t always. When we’re not getting shots in our offense, we shoot worse than we normally do. That’s on us to be able to figure out.”
There were times UConn seemed to be making a quiet comeback, like before the end of the half or the end of the third but the Huskies were never able to quell Baylor’s size advantage and points in the paint.
Television analyst Kara Lawson accurately remarked during the game that the Huskies were “being bludgeoned in the paint.”
“They’ve got every one of our guys by six inches, so we knew that was going to happen and we were okay with that,” Auriemma said in a statement posted on the teams website. “What we weren’t okay with was how hard it was for us to get the shots that we wanted. And then when we did get the shots that we wanted, we didn’t make any of them.”
This loss marks the first time seniors Collier and Samuelson have lost in the regular season during their careers at UConn. Both players notched double-doubles in the loss.
For the Lady Bears, 6-foot-7 senior Kalani Brown led the way with 20 points and 17 rebounds. Chloe Jackson also had a great game with 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
While the Huskies plan was to score points in transition, Baylor’s plan was to limit those points as much as possible.
“We focused on not giving them transition layups,” Baylor’s head coach Kim Mulkey told the Hartford Courant. “ I thought in the Notre Dame game [Christyn] Williams flew out of there and got too many layups. They’re too good to give up those kinds of buckets. Make them work for their buckets because they’re such a great shooting team.”
Freshman Christyn Williams scored 28 points for the Huskies in their matchup against Notre Dame earlier in the season. Yesterday, she scored just eight points.
Baylor’s win marks the first time Mulkey has beat a No. 1 team. UConn is the only No. 1 team Baylor has ever faced under Mulkey.
“Listen, we’re all chasing Geno, let’s be real,” Mulkey told ESPN. “ I didn’t know it was a first. I don’t coach like that. I just want to win the next game.”
Next up, the Huskies will open conference play by taking on Houston on Sunday. However, they will not be forgetting Thursday’s nights loss anytime soon.
“One of the first things that we said when we got to the locker room and when Coach came in, was that we really need to take this loss and we can’t just let it go,” Collier told the Hartford Courant. “We really have to see what our individual weaknesses are and if you need to get in the gym you need to do that. If you need to learn the plays, you need to do that. You really need to look at yourself and see what your weakness was this game and try to build on that otherwise this loss was for nothing.”
Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.