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No. 6 WBB Takes 74-58 Road Victory over Top-Ranked UConn

HARTFORD, Conn.  – Just over a year after snapping UConn’s streak of 126 consecutive regular-season wins, the sixth-ranked Baylor Lady Bears were at it again Thursday night at the XL Center. 
            Using a dominant fourth quarter that included a decisive 15-0 run, Baylor (12-1) pulled away late and defeated the top-ranked Huskies, 74-58, before a crowd of 12,415, snapping their 98-game home-court winning streak. UConn (12-1), which also suffered its first loss of the season, had not dropped a home game since falling to Notre Dame, 73-72, on Jan. 5, 2013, at its campus arena in Storrs. 
            “That’s crazy,” said Baylor sophomore forward NaLyssa Smith, who recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds. “They’re a great program, so I’m going to give that to them. But, we played great basketball tonight.”
            Coming off a career-high 32 points in Saturday’s road win at Oklahoma, grad transfer Te’a Cooper pumped in 27 against the Huskies and sealed it by hitting seven free throws in the last two minutes. Senior All-American Lauren Cox added a season-high 16 points in her third game back from a foot injury, adding six rebounds, four blocks and four assists. 
            Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said Thursday’s game didn’t change her opinion that there’s not “just one team that is head and shoulders above everybody.”
            “I think there’s about six teams that have the ability, talent and coaching to win it all this year. I think we’re one of them. I think Connecticut is one of them. . . . You don’t over-emphasize this game. We will get better, Connecticut will get better.”
            For the first 35 minutes, the top-10 matchup more than lived up to its hype, with Baylor clinging to a one-point lead after missing its first six shots of the fourth quarter and going through nearly a seven-minute scoring drought. The Huskies had twice come back from eight-point deficits to get back in the game. 
            Christyn Williams, who scored a game-high 21 points, knocked down a step-back jumper that pulled UConn back within 55-54 on the first bucket of the fourth quarter with 6:36 left in the game. But, the Huskies missed their next eight shots before Crystal Daingerfield hit a meaningless 3-pointer in the last minute. 
            Baylor’s smothering defense limited UConn to 29 percent shooting for the game (20-of-69), including 8-of-26 from outside the arc. And it was at its best in the fourth quarter, holding the Huskies to just six points and 2-of-18 shooting from the field. 
            “I’d like to tell you it was some great strategy that I called before the fourth quarter,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said, “but really we were doing the same thing the first three quarters. I don’t know if fatigue set in. I don’t know if we just got a lead and really stepped it up a notch. But, we didn’t change anything defensively.”
            The Lady Bears finally ended their scoring drought when DiDi Richards fed Cox for a jumper in the lane, extending the lead to 57-54 with just over five minutes left. That started the 15-0 run that included 10 straight points by Smith and was capped by a pair of Cooper free throws to give Baylor its biggest lead of the night, 70-54. 
            “I thought for 30 minutes, we were pretty good,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “We have a really young team, young in terms of being able to play in this kind of game. They don’t know how to play in this kind of game, when you are counting on them to make shots that other people used to make for them. In the fourth quarter, we got four stops in a row and it was a one-point game, and we came out empty-handed.”
            After Cox’s bucket, Smith took over, stretching it to a double-digit lead with a three-point play and adding a layup off a high-low pass from Cox that made it 67-54. 
            “The more they play together, the better they will be,” Mulkey said of Cox and Smith, who combined for 36 points and 18 boards. “With NaLyssa, (Cox) is now playing with a totally different type of post player. She’s used to the big, 6-7 Kalani Brown, big presence, back-to-the-basket post. With NaLyssa, they have to work differently, because NaLyssa is so athletic.”
            Williams (21), Megan Walker (18) and Daingerfield (16) scored in double figures for the Huskies, but sophomore center Olivia Nelson-Ododa was 0-for-8 from the field and failed to score after coming in averaging 13.0 points per game. 
            Baylor returns home to host Oklahoma State (10-4. 1-1) at 1 p.m. Sunday at the Ferrell Center after an impressive two-game road swing that included its second-straight win over a No. 1 UConn team after losing its first 11 matchups against No. 1 teams. The Bears are now 4-4 against the Huskies all-time, including 2-2 in Connecticut. 
            “We just happen to be the team that beat them. It’s nothing more than that,” Mulkey said. “Streaks are made to be broken.”

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