UConn women’s basketball lost for the third time in the last four years on Thursday night. The No. 8 Baylor Lady Bears knocked off the No. 1 Huskies, 68-57, giving Geno Auriemma his first regular season loss since 2014. Not a single player on the UConn roster had lost a game as a Husky until Thursday night.
The Huskies’ last two losses took herculean efforts that involved overtime and incredible game-winning shots. Baylor won by 11 points and really wasn’t threatened much in the second half.
Here’s what went wrong down in Waco, Texas:
Baylor Overwhelmed UConn With Their Size
Coming into the game, there was plenty of talk about Baylor’s big size advantage — and for good reason. The Lady Bears had the 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown and 6-foot-4 Lauren Cox, both as strong as they are tall. UConn had to match up with 6-foot-3 Katie Lou Samuelson, 6-foot-2 Napheesa Collier and 6-foot-1 Megan Walker.
It didn’t go well.
Brown dominated with 22 points and 17 rebounds. When she went at the basket, the Huskies only answer was hoping she’d miss the shot. Cox shut down UConn on the other end, swatting five shots.
UConn couldn’t get near the basket on offense and couldn’t stop Baylor from getting to the rim on defense. The Huskies were out-scored 52-10 in the paint. The Lady Bears scored 18 points total outside the paint. UConn scored 18 points total inside the arc.
With such a mismatch, it’s a bit of surprise the 6-foot-4 Olivia Nelson-Ododa only played four minutes, especially after she showed promise against Notre Dame’s bigs. They’re going to need Nelson-Ododa to develop enough to be reliable off the bench and figure out a way to handle teams bigger than them.
If they don’t, this won’t be the Huskies only loss of the season.
UConn Didn’t Have Any Answers On The Bench
Mikayla Coombs, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Batouly Camara all came into the game off the bench in the loss. If you look at the box score, you would hardly know they were there.
Despite combining for 14 minutes, the trio added just one rebound and a handful of fouls. This is not a new problem for the Huskies, as their lack of depth has been a concern all season long. However, on a night where many of UConn’s starters were struggling from the floor and help was needed from the bench, no one was able to step up to the plate.
Coombs was the first player to enter the game, replacing Christyn Williams, who was relatively quiet all night and did not score until late in the third quarter. With Williams struggling, Auriemma was likely looking for another scoring option on the floor. Coombs failed to deliver.
Nelson-Ododa’s size and Camara’s aggression should have been helpful advantages against a bigger Baylor team. Instead, the freshman did not impact the game in her four minutes on the court. Of the three, Camara’s minutes were the most productive. Upon entering the game, she quickly added a rebound and a block to show some promise. However, she also tallied three fouls in just five minutes before heading back to the bench.
With the now third game of the season where UConn has struggled offensively, the loss highlights the need for a dependable option off the bench. Against lesser competition, Samuelson or Collier putting the team on their back has been enough to get the win. However, come March the Huskies will need someone that can come in and impact the game on an off night.
UConn Put Up A Historically Bad Shooting Performance
There were a lot of streaks snapped in the loss. UConn had won 126-straight regular season games, 55-straight true road games, etc. But one stat went back farther than any of those streaks. The Huskies finished the game shooting 29.4 percent from the field — their worst mark in the last 20 years.
UConn made just nine shots inside the arc, 11 from 3-point range. Katie Lou Samuelson missed her first six shots and only shot 4-16 on the night (2-10 from three). Crystal Dangerfield only hit 3-10 from three.
It wasn’t as if the team wasn’t getting good shots either. They had plenty of open looks that they simply missed, something that doesn’t happen too often. It wasn’t until the very end of the game that the Huskies started forcing bad shots and by that point, the game was really already over.
Overall, UConn shot 34 percent from three, which isn’t terrible. But they needed an above-average shooting night from 3-point land to compensate for their inability to get inside but instead got a pedestrian performance.