HARTFORD - After an uncharacteristically quiet first half, Baylor's All-American tandem of Brittney Griner and Odyssey Sims awoke in time to lift the top-ranked Lady Bears to a hard-earned 76-70 win over No. 3 UConn before a sellout crowd of 16,294 at the XL Center on Monday.
Griner had 21 points in the second half as the Lady Bears survived a stern test from the Huskies.
"We are just not good enough to beat these guys yet," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
UConn seemed to be control of the game with a 27-18 lead after a Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis layup with 3:29 to go in the half.
However, the Huskies didn't have another field goal the rest of the first half.
Baylor began to inch its way back with a pair of Jordan Madden free throws. Brooklyn Pope, who came off the bench for the first time since a Jan. 23 win over Iowa State, had a pair of baskets and Kimetria Hayden also had a hoop during the Lady Bears' 8-0 run which pulled Baylor within one point.
Mosqueda-Lewis was fouled with 1.6 seconds to go and hit both free throws to give the Huskies the 29-26 lead at halftime.
Mosqueda-Lewis, who came into the game with one double-double, had her second by halftime with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds.
Baylor took its first lead on a Griner putback early in the second half before Morgan Tuck hit a hook as the Huskies regained the advantage. Kelly Faris followed with a backdoor layup.
UConn (24-2) seemed to catch its breath with back-to-back baskets by Faris and Hartley. When Hartley was racing up the floor following a Griner turnover, the Baylor All-American reached out and grabbed Dolson by the arm and pulled her to the ground. She was assessed a flagrant 1 foul and Dolson hit both free throws to put UConn up 41-34 with 15:34 to go in the game.
Baylor promptly ripped off the next eight points. Hayden tied the game with a 3-pointer, while Destiny Williams put the Lady Bears in front by hitting one of two from the free-throw line beginning a stretch of six straight lead changes. That pattern ended when Sims hit a 3 and then set up Brooklyn Pope for a basket to give the Lady Bears the 54-50 lead.
UConn got back within a point following a Mosqueda-Lewis 3-pointer before Griner had a pair of baskets and Sims a pair of free throws to stretch the lead to 63-56.
A 3-pointer by Tuck and pair of jumpers by Mosqueda-Lewis got UConn back within two points. However, Mosqueda-Lewis forced a shot on the next possession. Griner scored on the other end to make it a four-point edge. Pope hit a layup to make a 71-65 lead.
UConn was able to get as close as four points, but Griner had a pair of free throws, including one which gave her 3,000 career points, and Pope converted a steal into a layup to finish off the Huskies.
Griner had 25 points, nine rebounds and four assists, Pope had 18 for Baylor (25-1).
Hartley had 13 points while Tuck and Dolson added 11.
Neither coach was thrilled at the timing of the game. Mulkey said it was the least important regular-season game the Lady Bears would play for the rest of the season.
Auriemma wasn't about to go that far.
"We are all trying to win conference championships, not everybody can but we are all trying to," Auriemma said. "I don't know how a game is going to affect one way or the other our ability to win the Big East championship that way. I never look at it that way. I am almost at the point where you win the Big East regular season championship and you lose in the second round (of the NCAA tournament) and they are going to have a parade for you because you won the conference championship?"