No. 1 UConn wins 80th in row, topping No. 2 Baylor

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP)—Maya Moore missed, and suddenly Connecticut’s grip on women’s college basketball was in jeopardy.

Baylor had one more shot to topple the No. 1 Huskies and end their record winning streak. But the No. 2 Lady Bears simply ran out of time, their last try a little too short and a little too late.

Coach Geno Auriemma and UConn rallied from a late eight-point deficit and held on for their 80th straight victory, 65-64 Tuesday night—by far the toughest test since the streak started exactly two years ago.

Showing they could win the close ones, too, the Huskies overcame 6-foot-8 Baylor star Brittney Griner and a 56-48 gap with 6:42 to go. They moved within eight victories of matching the 88-game string put together by UCLA’s men’s teams in the 1970s.

“I thought we played great for long stretches. Obviously Baylor is a great team and they made their run,” Auriemma said. “Then the improbable happened, people other than Maya began scoring.”

“They don’t know what it’s like to come back from a run,” he said.

It’s true. The Huskies have spent the last two seasons rolling over every opponent, waiting for a real challenge.

They got one Tuesday night.

Moore scored 30 points, but it was freshman Bria Hartley who saved the Huskies after they wasted a 15-point lead early in the second half.

Moore missed with an airball from the corner with 6 seconds left as the shotclock went off and Melissa Jones grabbed the rebound. Instead of giving the Lady Bears the ball on the side for a shotclock violation, the officials let the game continue.

Having just used its last timeout, Baylor had no choice but to get to the basket. Odyssey Sims brought the ball up the court but her 30-foot attempt was nowhere close.

Auriemma covered his head with hands as he went to meet Baylor coach Kim Mulkey at midcourt.

“I think there’s always something cool when you do something for the first time with a group of people,” Auriemma said. “You know you don’t have all the answers. For the last two years it’s been let’s do that. Now it’s not going to be like that.”

After the game Mulkey wondered about that final sequence.

“Was that a shotclock violation?” she asked the media. “Did anyone watch that?”

The Big East quickly answered her question.

“If the other team has the ball as the horn is going off that’s a possession so there’s no shot clock violation,” said Big East assistant commissioner Barb Jacobs, who is in charge of officiating.

Mulkey downplayed the result.

“Do you see us crying? Could we have won the game,” Mulkey said. “I learned I have a talented basketball team,” she said.

Tiffany Hayes added 16 points for Connecticut (2-0). Griner scored 19 points and had nine blocks for the Lady Bears (3-1), but was 5-for-13 from the free throw line—including some key misses down the stretch.

“I don’t really know what happened on my free throws,” Griner said.

Sims added 17 points and Kimetria Hayden had 15.

Ahead 44-29 early in the second half, the Huskies suddenly found themselves in trouble when Griner took over. The Bears rallied using a 27-4 run.

Then, Hartley emerged for the Huskies, who closed the game with a 17-8 burst. Hartley had eight of her nine points during that spurt after doing virtually nothing for the first 37 minutes she took over.

“Bria reacted exactly how I thought she would react, it just took a little longer,” Auriemma said.

It was the 46th time that the top two teams in The Associated Press Top 25 poll have played. The No. 1-ranked team holds a 27-19 lead.

This is the earliest that the top teams have played in either men’s or women’s basketball. UConn improved to 10-1 in those contests as the top team.

During its current run, UConn has faced the No. 2 team four other times and won by nearly 17 points a game.

Griner and Bears nearly changed that.

After going scoreless for nearly 21 minutes, the sophomore phenom keyed Baylor’s huge run over the next 9 minutes, scoring 11 points on an array of post moves.

Sims’ layup tied the game at 48 with 9:15 left. Jordan Madden followed with a 3-pointer that gave the Lady Bears their first lead since early in the first half.

They extended the lead to 56-48, hitting five of six free throws. That was the biggest second-half deficit UConn had faced late in the game during its vaunted streak.

Moore wouldn’t let the string end there. The senior had an acrobatic three-point play that made it 56-51, Hayes followed with a layup and two free throws and Hartley’s 3-pointer tied it at 58 with 3:57 left.

After a turnaround by Griner, Hartley hit a layup over Griner and followed it up with a 3-pointer to make it 63-60.

“I don’t know there’s been a bigger shot made in her life than the 3 she made from the wing to tie the game,” Auriemma said. “It must have been a great feeling for her.”

Hayden’s reverse layup cut Baylor’s deficit to one before Moore hit a sweet pullup from just above the foul line to extend the advantage to 65-62. Jones had a putback for Baylor that made it 65-64 with 36.5 seconds left.

The game was a rematch from last season’s national semifinal, which Connecticut won 70-50. While the Lady Bears had mostly everyone back, UConn graduated national player of the year Tina Charles.

The Huskies started freshman Stefanie Dolson on Griner and the Lady Bears went right at the first-year player. Griner scored six of the team’s first 10 points and picked up two fouls on Dolson in the first 3 minutes. Her two free throws with 16:54 left were her last points of the half.

Auriemma turned to 6-foot-1 freshman Samarie Walker, who despite giving up 7 inches more than held her own against Griner. She settled for turnaround jumpers and didn’t try attacking the basket at all. Griner didn’t score for nearly 21 minutes, taking only four shots over that span as UConn sent two and sometimes three defenders at her.

“It was kind of like every other game,” Griner said. “You know, doubling and bringing the four player over, and just trying different people on me. I mean, it’s kind of like what I’m going to see all season and what I’m going to see.”

UConn greats Sue Bird and Swin Cash were part of the crowd of 12,628.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Baylor
Brittney Griner Brittney Griner
7-12,  19 Pts
7 Rebs, 0 Assists
 Connecticut
Maya Moore Maya Moore
11-26,  30 Pts
7 Rebs, 2 Assists

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Tuesday, Nov 16