Dec. 18, 2011
WACO, Texas (AP) - Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma got everything he could hope from his team - except for the win that would have gotten the Huskies into the No. 1 spot for the first time since Maya Moore played her last game.
For now, Brittney Griner and No. 1 Baylor are still a bit better than the second-ranked Huskies.
Griner scored 12 of her 25 points in the game-ending stretch that pushed the Lady Bears to a 66-61 victory Sunday night, their second win in a No. 1 vs. 2 game this season.
"I don't think there are going to be a lot of teams that come in here and be up 11 and do what we did to them for long stretches of the game," Auriemma said. "I think in a lot of other ways we leave here with a pretty good understanding of where we need to be as a team.
"I think both teams come out of it feeling pretty good," he added. "I don't see any downside to the way this game was played."
There is always a chance these teams could meet again this season - in March or April.
Griner, who this past offseason played on the U.S. national women's team coached by Auriemma, also had nine rebounds and nine blocked shots.
The 6-foot-8 All-America pick also made all seven of her free throws, six of them coming in a game-ending 27-11 run as Baylor (11-0) overcome its biggest deficit of the season. Griner missed eight free throws in last year's game.
"That's the first thing I looked at," Griner said, holding the stat sheet that showed she made all seven free throws - six in that final spurt.
The Huskies (9-1) might have a hard time getting over the thought of Griner making shots and swatting away others.
"The obvious answer is she's just a lot bigger than any kid that she's going to be playing against," Auriemma said. "She's developed a little bit of an aggressiveness and a few more ways to score than she's had in the past, and that's made it really difficult to defend her."
Odyssey Sims had 23 points for the Lady Bears, whose 29-game home winning streak includes a 94-81 win over then-No. 2 Notre Dame in November.
"We said going into the game, Odyssey Sims is going to decide this game," Auriemma said. "Brittney is going to get what Brittney gets every night. And that was a typical Brittney game."
It was the most anticipated home game for the Lady Bears, and the first time a men's or women's game sold out in advance at the Ferrell Center. The record crowd of 10,627 included Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, who flashed the pose and got a huge ovation when he was shown on the screen.
Connecticut, whose average margin of victory this season was nearly 42 points, was 13-2 in previous games matching 1 vs. 2, including eight wins in a row. The previous one was the 65-64 victory over Baylor last season.
"I think (our players) were very mature in the locker room at halftime, very focused," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "They understood, you're not just playing the current UConn team, you're playing a very proud tradition."
Right after that, Griner got her fifth block of the game to break the Big 12 career record, and made some key free throws, as well. She broke Courtney Paris' Big 12 career record of 446, and now has 451.
"Shot blocking is the one thing I love the most," Griner said.
Griner quickly added another block when she swatted away a shot by Hayes and followed with two free throws. Sims then had a steal and drove for a bank shot to wrap up 10 consecutive points by the Lady Bears to cut the gap to 50-49.
Hartley broke that streak with a basket that just beat the shot clock. After Griner was called for a charging foul, Stefanie Dolson hit a jumper for the Huskies.
Griner and Kelly Faris traded two free throws each around the 5-minute mark before the Lady Bears went ahead to stay on Terran Condrey's 3-pointer that made it 58-56 with 4 1/2 minutes left.
"I think we have to take it and learn from it and just work on getting better," Hartley said. "Work on improving the mistakes that we made, work on our mentality, know when things aren't going our way, we have to be able to stand together and withstand runs like this."
Griner made a short hook on the first shot of the game, and when she made another 6 minutes in, the Lady Bears had a 14-5 lead. That was the Huskies' biggest deficit of the season.
Baylor didn't trail until Connecticut made consecutive 3-pointers. Mosqueda-Lewis rattled one in from the right side with 5 minutes left, and Hayes followed a Baylor miss with a shot from beyond the arc for a 27-26 lead.