The No. 1 Baylor women posted an impressive road victory over third-ranked Connecticut.
HARTFORD, Conn. — It had been awhile since Brittney Griner and Baylor faced a true test on the court.
The top-ranked Bears and their 6-foot-8 standout passed a tough one Monday night, rallying to beat No. 3 Connecticut 76-70 in a women’s basketball showdown that lived up to its billing.
“We’re just not good enough yet to beat these guys tonight,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
Griner scored 21 of her 25 points in the second half, including the 3,000th of her career, to extend Baylor’s winning streak to 23 games. The reigning AP player of the year became the eighth women’s Division I player to reach the milestone, doing it on two free throws with 1:05 left.
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“Just got more aggressive,” Griner said. “Coach told me I need to be more aggressive in the paint, go to the goal, so that’s what I did.”
Big 12 powerhouse Baylor (25-1) went 40-0 last season en route to the school’s second NCAA title, and its loss this season came in Hawaii against Stanford in November. Griner and teammates hadn’t really been challenged since, with no opponent coming within single digits.
But when UConn built a seven-point lead in the second half, the Bears were ready to respond.
“It’s always good to give yourself a gauge of what you need to work on,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “I told them at halftime, it’s been a long time since we’ve had to execute on offense. We’re so athletic and so good and so talented, we just go play basketball. But against good teams who play great defensively, you must execute.”
Griner and fellow preseason All-American Odyssey Sims had a tough first half, combining to go 3 for 19 from the field. They were effective after halftime, though.
Baylor led 54-53 midway through the second half when Griner took over. She scored seven points during a quick burst, and her putback made the score 67-61 with five minutes left.
UConn (24-2) of the Big East rallied behind Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who scored 26 points, to close to 67-65. But Griner continued to excel.
“This was a great game for women’s basketball,” Mulkey said. “But this game is not going to knock Geno out of a No. 1 seed, not going to make us a guaranteed overall No. 1 seed.”
Auriemma welcomed the demanding test.
“I’ve always said this is why you want to play these games at this time of the year,” he said. “Because if we didn’t play this game tonight, we might have played a team we beat 100-35. Playing a game like this with a month before the NCAA tournament, I can’t think of anything better to do at this point of the season.”