WACO, Texas – The Baylor Lady Bears have about as good a resume as any women’s basketball program in the country.
But it’s still possible to add to it as Baylor showed on Thursday night at the Ferrell Center.
The Lady Bears controlled the game against top-ranked Connecticut and handed the powerhouse Huskies a 68-57 defeat in a nonconference game featured in prime time on ESPN.
Baylor center Kalani Brown came up huge as she scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds. But she wasn’t the only Lady Bear with a monster game.
Point guard Chloe Jackson contributed 11 points, 8 assists and 4 steals and committed no turnovers in 38 minutes of action. Forward Lauren Cox had as big a game as a player can have without registering any double-digit stats. She scored nine, dished out four assists, blocked five shots and pulled down seven rebounds.
It all added up the Baylor’s first win against a No. 1-ranked opponent. And the Lady Bears ended a number of UConn streaks, including 126-straight regular-season wins and 56-consecutive road wins.
Baylor did it by clamping down on the Huskies’ prolific scorers Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier.
Samuelson, highly regarded as one of the best players in women’s college basketball, averages 20 points and 7.8 rebounds. She finished with 12 points on 4 of 16 shooting and pulled down 11 rebounds. But Samuelson was just 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
Baylor coach Kim Mulkey sent guard DiDi Richards chasing Samuelson all night. Richards frustrated the UConn star into 3 of 10 shooting in the first half to set the tone.
“Let me give kudos to DiDi Richards,” Mulkey said in the postgame press conference. “That kid defended Samuelson with every ounce of energy she had. DiDi had the length, she’s active. She made Samuelson work for every shot. … I thought our matchup with Cox and Didi on their two best players was important for us.”
Cox held Collier to 16 points, 2 below her season average, on 6 of 18 shooting.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma put the loss not just on his team’s inability to hit shots — the Huskies made 29.4 percent from the field — but on its timidity in shooting.
“During one timeout I actually said, ‘We’re trying to invent a way to score without shooting,’” Auriemma said. “I don’t know that we can do that. But I said, ‘I’ll think of it before the next timeout.’”
Baylor, meanwhile, hit shots early and often and lit up the Ferrell Center with big buckets in the fourth quarter.
Brown made a layup 10 seconds into the fourth quarter and a jumper about 90 seconds later to give the Lady Bears an 8-point lead with 8:26 remaining.
UConn’s Megan Walker and Crystal Daingerfield made a pair of 3-pointers midway through the fourth to pull the Huskies within 6 points.
But Jackson punched back for Baylor with a jumper and a fast-break layup to push the Lady Bears back in front by 10 and UConn never got back within double digits.
Jackson steal and layup with 1:55 left let the Baylor fans know the game was there and the celebration began.