In the biggest game of the women’s college basketball season so far, No. 1 Connecticut defeated No. 2 Baylor to extend their winning streak to 80 games.
UConn head coach Geno Auriemma braced his fans and team for the chance they could lose this early marquee matchup before the season began. He leads five newcomers into the season and explained that this team needed to look at building their own identity regardless of the streak.
“When that happens, that’s when you can say, ‘This is what it meant. This is what it was, and now you guys can start your own streak,'” Auriemma said. “Because they’ve got nothing to do with this streak.”
Baylor entered the season as the team favored to win the solid Big 12 conference and seemed like the team most likely to knock off the UConn women.
“Last year, I said it was UConn and everybody else, and that proved to be true,” said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey. “This year there is not a dominant team, in my opinion, that we had last year. UConn is the national champion until somebody proves otherwise. UConn continues to have the winning streak until somebody beats them. We will get an opportunity quickly to play them. … We get a shot at trying to beat them.”
Baylor received that chance and fell short.
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Connecticut rallied from a late eight-point deficit and held on for their 80th straight victory, 65-64 Tuesday night.
“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.”
Maya Moore scored 30 for Connecticut but freshman Bria Hartley came on strong after Baylor went on a 27-4 run to tighten the game up. Hartley hit eight points during a 17-8 comeback by Connecticut to give them the victory.
It was the 46th time that the top two teams in the Associated Press Top 25 poll have played but is the earliest that the top teams have played in either men’s or women’s basketball.
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The game was a rematch from last season’s national semifinal, which Connecticut won 70-50. While Baylor had mostly everyone back, UConn graduated national player of the year Tina Charles.
“Do you see us crying? Could we have won the game,” said Mulkey. “I learned I have a talented basketball team.”
With the win, Connecticut moved within eight victories of matching the 88-game string put together by UCLA‘s men’s teams in the 1970s.