Well, it happened. UConn lost. To Baylor again. For the second year in a row, the Baylor Lady Bears beat the Huskies in the regular season, and both time, they snapped a streak. Last year, it was UConn’s regular-season winning streak, and this year it was the home winning streak.
For three quarters, it was an impressively competitive game, with both teams showing why they were ranked where they were heading into the game. UConn (12-1), the No. 1 ranked team in the country, was down just three points heading into the last quarter, but Baylor (12-1), the No. 6 ranked team, controlled the entire final ten minutes, outscoring the Huskies 19-6 in the fourth.
“We knew they were going to get probably to 65, 67, and then we needed to get to 70, 75, and that we needed to make more threes than them,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “We made eight, they made seven. We needed to make 10 or 11, and we didn’t. But I thought for 30 minutes I thought we were pretty good, we were pretty good.”
When the clock hit zero, the scoreboard read 74-58 Baylor, and that felt about right based on how the fourth quarter played out.
“In the fourth quarter we didn’t run our offense as well as we should have, it was kind of like all over the place,” Megan Walker said. “I feel like in the first half and the third quarter we knew what type of shots we were looking for, we knew what set we were gonna run, and I feel like we went a little bit one-on-one too much.”
Walker finished the game 5-of-20 from the field and 3-of-8 from beyond the arc, her worst shooting day this season by a significant margin. Not only did it tie the fewest amount of field goals she made in a game this season, but it was also tied for the second-most shots she attempted, just one behind her season-high. Still, she finished the game with 18 points and eight rebounds, fighting through the very end.
UConn’s strongest offensive presence was Christyn Williams, who notched 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting despite going 0-for-5 from three. Not only that, but she grabbed a team-high nine rebounds, though eight of them came in the first 15 minutes of the game.
It was Williams, Walker and Crystal Dangerfield who provided practically all of UConn’s offense, combining for 55 of the team’s 58 points. The only other scorer was Anna Makurat, who drained her only three of the game.
That notably excludes Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who was held completely scoreless in the affair. She went 0-for-8 from three and eventually got herself benched, coming out of the game with 2:33 remaining in the third and never checking back in.
Her struggles were both a factor of and largely contributed to Baylor’s size advantage, and despite only grabbing one more rebound than the Huskies, outscored them by 14 in the paint.
“They’re just big, all around,” Williams said. “Even their guards are bigger, and we knew that going into the game so we were gonna try to be smarter than them, but yeah their size makes us have trouble.”
It was a situation that UConn hasn’t really been faced with this season. Usually, it’s safe to type out “Nelson-Ododa wins the tip and the game is underway” into Twitter well prior to the game and just send it when it happens, but that was not the case on Thursday. For the first time all season, UConn lost the tip.
“Some years you’re just not going to be able to fix the things that your team is,” Auriemma said. “We’re not going to fix our size problem, it’s not getting fixed. So we gotta deal with it.”
It’s been said before, but this is a different team than in years past. They don’t have the size, they don’t have the experience, and as Geno put it, they don’t have the maturity just yet. When it comes to being counted on in big-time games, they’re young.
“We’ve never been in this situation before,” Auriemma said. “We’ve never had this many players that we’re relying on that haven’t been exposed to this. Usually, by this time in the year, the guys that were All-Americans last year are carrying the load, but we don’t have any, so it’s all brand new to these guys.”
The Huskies will be back in action very soon, hosting Houston on Saturday at 1 p.m.
“Houston, they just happen to be the team, so all the frustration and that we have, we’re taking it out on them,” Williams said. “So it sucks for them.”