Heading into their first game of 2019, the No. 1 UConn Huskies knew No. 8 Baylor was going to be one of the toughest teams to beat. Altogether, Baylor had advantages in size, defense and overall personnel, with Kalani Brown coming up big for the Lady Bears with game highs in scoring (22 points) and rebounding (17 boards) to derail the efforts of two UConn double-doubles: Napheesa Collier (16 points, 11 rebounds) and Katie Lou Samuelson (12 points, 11 rebounds).
Making headlines after UConn’s loss to Baylor is the fact that the Huskies have remained invincible in the regular season since 2014. However the loss is translated, UConn’s efforts despite a vertical disadvantage shouldn’t be overlooked. At only 5-foot-5, Crystal Dangerfield grabbed a season-high 6 rebounds in the game and Megan Walker (6-foot-1) scored 10 points.
In the first-half, the stay-in-motion strategy of UConn’s was to be counterproductive of Baylor’s sit-still philosophy. Unfortunately, the Bears kept reloading on points in the paint, scoring 24 in the second quarter alone. A plus for UConn was personal fouls — as a team, they committed only 2, compared to Baylor’s 6, as halftime neared. UConn trailed by only on point leading into the break, despite shooting 29 percent from the field after Samuelson’s last-second layup made it 30-29 in favor of Baylor.
Following halftime, Mikayla Coombs would replace Christyn Williams, who was 0-for-2 in shooting. Additionally, Batouly Camara made her first appearance since Thanksgiving, but accrued three fouls within the opening minutes of the third quarter. And though a triple threat of Collier, Samuelson and team-made threes tried to tow UConn out of trouble, the second-half turned into the Kalani Brown and Lauren Cox Show.
It was a win powered by Brown’s 22 points and 17 rebounds that landed UConn not only its first loss of the season, but a game where the Huskies scored a season-low in points. After attempting just four layups throughout the entire game, UConn couldn’t respond to Baylor’s 43 percent shooting, along with its 19 assists and 12 points off turnovers.
The moral of the story for UConn is exactly what Baylor had to do after losing to Stanford: reflect, learn and grow. Between now and just a few weeks, the Huskies will have the chance to do that against another ranked opponent: Louisville.
As for each teams’ next game, UConn’s and Baylor’s seasons continue on Jan. 6, when the Huskies travel 185 miles south of Waco to take on Houston. Kim Mulkey’s Bears, meanwhile, will head off to Lubbock to play an underrated Red Raiders team.