Connecticut has been the best team in the country this season, including six wins over top 25 programs. Coming into the game against Baylor, UConn had played five top 25 teams, including three top 8 teams. In those games, the Huskies had defeated teams by an average of 22.2 points per game.
The Lady Bears struggled early in the first half with UConn's size on the front line. In the first half, the Huskies outrebounded the Lady Bears 24-15 before sophomore forward Breanna Stewart's seven in a half. The Bears shot only 21.4 percent from the field in the half led by senior guard Odyssey Sims' 13.3 percent from the field and zero assists.
Things turned in the second half when the ball started flowing through sophomore guard Niya Johnson. Outside of Sims, the Baylor supporting cast shot 10-21 in the second half. The Lady Bears got as close at 50-49 before UConn made their final move. Baylor struggled at the end and missed eight of their last nine shots before falling 66-55.
Sims played arguably the worst game of her career against UConn on Monday. In 36 minutes, Sims shot a paltry 16 percent from the field and had seven turnovers. Outside of Sims, Baylor players shot 41.2 percent from the field.
It was clear throughout the game that Sims felt her scoring is the only way that Baylor would have a chance to win, whether or not that is true. In the first half, Sims shot 15 times and got to the free throw line 10 times. Her penetration forced UConn center Stefanie Dolson to the bench with three fouls in the first half, but the Lady Bears were unable to take advantage.
Later on in the first and in the second, Sims stopped really trying to score and threw her body around to try and get foul calls. The refs refused to bite in the second half and Sims finished the game shooting 4-for-25. The most productive stretch of the game was when Sims settled down on shot attempts and let the ball flow through Johnson.
Freshman forward Nina Davis had a great game in her limited touches. Davis finished the game with 11 points and a career-high 17 rebounds. In the second half alone she posted eight points and 11 rebounds on 4-for-5 shooting from the field. The 5-foot-11 Davis had to guard 6-foot-5 Breanna Stewart for most of the game and held her to only 4-for-14 shooting.
The referees' presence was felt on both sides throughout the game. The two teams combined for 33 fouls and to shoot 36 field goals. Most of Baylor's free throws came in the first half; the Lady Bears got only three free throw attempts and three fouls against in the second half.
Mulkey called this game a "measuring stick" against the top ranked team in the nation, and it delivered. Despite a heartbreaking loss, the Lady Bears stuck around and gave the top team in the country their toughest test of the season. By the end of the game, inexperience and fatigue decided the game. Only three players out of the nine in the rotation are upperclassmen for Baylor compared to five out of eight for UConn.
The loss was only Baylor's second of the season. The other loss came against No. 5 Kentucky in the Big 12-SEC showdown at AT&T Stadium over a month ago. This is likely the last test Baylor will face until they travel to No. 11 Oklahoma State on Jan. 26. Oklahoma State and No. 13 Iowa State are the only two remaining ranked teams left on Baylor's schedule.
While the Lady Bears lost, the underclassmen will benefit tremendously from the experience gained tonight. Mulkey noted after the game that you can't count Sims shooting as poorly as she did again. If Odyssey Sims has a good game, who knows what happens against the top team in the nation.
The Lady Bears return on Sunday in Lawrence against the University of Kansas. The game will not be televised.
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