Baylor Teaches UConn Tough Lesson

Despite a fast start and an outstanding effort from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (26 points, 15 rebounds), UConn fell short against No. 1 Baylor Monday night, 76-70. Guess who made the difference for the Lady Bears.

HARTFORD, Conn. – One look at the box score and it would seem Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis did everything she could to help Connecticut beat the No. 1 team in the nation Monday night at the XL Center.

She didn't quite see it that way.

"It seems like every big game we come into, we get up and we hit them in the mouth first but we come up short," Mosqueda-Lewis said after the Huskies fell to Baylor 76-70. "Once the other team turns up the volume, it seems we don't recover from it. Unless we change our attitudes and something, we're going to keep getting the same results in big games like this.

"I disappeared a little bit in the middle of the first and second half and I can't really do that, you know. When I don't touch the ball for five minutes and I kind of hide, it hurts my team."

Mosqueda-Lewis led all scorers with 26 points and added a game-high 15 rebounds. It was an All-American kind of performance. She was 11-for-14 from the field and had two assists and three blocks in 38 minutes. With 13 points and 10 rebounds, she had a double-double by halftime and the No. 3 Huskies (24-2) had stormed to an 11-point lead in the first eight minutes of the game before a sellout crowd of 16,294.

But Baylor (25-1) gave UConn a lesson in team play in the second half. All-American center Brittney Griner scored 21 of her 25 points in the second half, sparking a 50-point outburst by the Bears after the intermission. Brooklyn Pope came off the bench for 18 points and point guard Odyssey Sims directed the show with seven assists and no turnovers as the Lady Bears won their 23rd consecutive game.

"Are we ready to win this kind of game? Yeah," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We could have easily won this game. But we're not smart enough to win it yet. Individually our team has to understand we're not good enough. It's got to be a collective effort like it was that first 15 minutes of the first half. It's got to be our team against their team. That kind of went away in the second half."

Mosqueda-Lewis scored seven of UConn's first 12 points as the Huskies jumped to a 12-2 lead with 15:30 left in the first half. She opened the scoring with a layup and gave UConn a 6-0 lead with a follow shot. A three-pointer, on the heels of a three by Bria Hartley (13 points), gave the Huskies their 10-point lead.

Mosqueda-Lewis was on fire in the first half, hitting 5 of 6 shots from the field and stealing the show from Baylor's Griner. The preseason national player of the year was 2-for-9 from the field in the first half. She had five rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes, but the Lady Bears missed her scoring.

The Lady Bears opened up shooting 25 percent and never really improved. They were 11-for-41 (26.8 percent) at the break, yet only trailed 29-26.

"The first half [Griner and Sims] were 3-for-19," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I've never seen the two of them have two bad halves. I just told them, 'Keep throwing her the ball. She'll find you, cut and get open.' And she did. She scored her 3,000th point here, in a big game. A big game; a significant game."

Griner became just the eighth player in Division I history to reach the 3,000-point mark with the second of two free throws with 1:05 left in the game. She was 10-for-21 from the field and 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Her free throw shooting was particularly self satisfying because she missed eight foul shots in Baylor's one-point loss to UConn the last time the Lady Bears visited.

UConn was able to trap Griner in the first half, using help defense to make Stefanie Dolson's job easier inside the lane. But the Huskies stopped doing that in the second half, much to Auriemma's dismay.

And Griner simply attacked the rim.

"In the first half, I didn't have a good half," Griner said. "I didn't help out my team too much. I wanted to come out in the second half a little bit more aggressive than I did in the first so I could do something to help out."

The momentum of the game actually started changing late in the first half. Mosqueda-Lewis hit a layup with 3:29 left to give the Huskies a 27-18 lead but UConn didn't a field goal the remainder of the half and Baylor cut the gap to three points.

"I think Baylor did a great job of pressuring us and they got us rattled a few times," said Dolson, who had 11 points and eight rebounds. "That is something we are going to have to work on…keeping our composure and make sure that we stick together and never stop moving. We need to make sure that we are running our plays correctly, listening to each other and talking to each other."

The most unsettling moment for the Huskies came with 15:46 left in the game. When Griner turned the ball over, leading to a steal and run out layup by Hartley, she got tangled with Dolson as both trailed the play. Griner grabbed Dolson's arm, dragged her to the floor and was called for a flagrant foul.

Dolson hit both free throws to give UConn a 41-34 lead. But the Lady Bears immediately put together an 8-0 run for a 42-41 lead.

"When it initially happened, it got me a little rattled," Dolson said. "But my teammates did a great job picking me up and saying, 'Calm down, Stef. Don't get wrapped up in all that crazy stuff.' I was OK."

But, in reality, Griner had flexed her muscle and she had her way the rest of the game. The Huskies played intimidated after that.

It took Baylor one minute to grab the lead in the second half. And Mosqueda-Lewis didn't score from the field until she hit a jumper with 10:45 left to give UConn a 48-47 lead.

"It just goes to show you, against a really good team, when mentally you make a couple of mistakes, how quickly the game can change," Auriemma said. "As well as we played defensively, and executed defensively, it should have been a 15-point game in the first half instead of a three-point game. I don't know that the last three minutes of the first half was the deciding factor of the game, but I think it was indicative of things that happened at various points in the game."

As Mulkey pointed out, the loss won't cost the Huskies a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. More importantly, it will provide Auriemma with several teaching points down the home stretch of the season. UConn should be a better team eventually as a result of playing the Lady Bears in February.

"I told Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis that this was the kind of game Maya Moore used to have," Auriemma said. "The only difference is that there was about a seven minute stretch where Kaleena wasn't involved. Tonight was the kind of game were Maya would've scored 50.

"She is just learning how much more she can do, than she did tonight. Tonight, she was phenomenal but if I showed you the film there would be things you can see that she has to work on."


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