UConn women’s basketball UConn women’s takeaways: The streak ends, the flaws exposed
WACO, Texas — It’s over.
UConn’s incredible 126-game regular season winning streak, spanning parts of five seasons and two national championships, ended Thursday night. With a raucous crowd of 10,284 at its back, No. 8 Baylor flexed its muscles, upending the top-ranked team in the country 68-57 at the Ferrell Center.
And so, the Huskies, now 11-1, find themselves on a losing streak as they prepare to open American Athletic Conference play Sunday at Houston (noon). It’s a position they haven’t been in — at least during the regular season — for quite some time.
How will this loss shape the Huskies? We’ll likely have to wait until March or maybe even April to find out.
Here’s five takeaways on UConn’s long, frustrating night in the Lone Star State:
Where’s the aggressiveness?: Christyn Williams was hardly noticeable before sinking a pair of 3-pointers late in the third quarter to pull UConn within 51-47. Ultimately, those shots served as nothing more than wind0w dressing.
There was too much passivity from the freshman guard, who finished with just eight points on 3-of-6 shooting. It was a stark change from her lights-out performance last month at Notre Dame, when she poured in 28 points, including 16 in the first quarter, and appeared determined to will her team to a win.
Make no mistake, it wasn’t just Williams who seemed gun-shy. Coach Geno Auriemma said there was “a lot of standing around” from the Huskies on offense — far too much. The Huskies, who shot only 29 percent from the floor, lacked fluidity and rhythm, and it showed in their assist total (11).
Too much height: On paper, the Huskies simply had no answer for Baylor’s size, particularly 6-foot-7 All-American Kalani Brown. Just as Auriemma had feared, that translated to the court, as Brown and the rest of the Lady Bears’ bigs — 6-4 Lauren Cox and 6-2 NaLyssa Smith — manhandled the Huskies at times.
In the paint, the Lady Bears outscored the Huskies 52-10. They also wreaked havoc along the perimeter, disrupting shot after shot. Simply put, they were relentless.
Some help, please: Smith’s performance off the bench (12 points, six rebounds in 15 minutes) did more than just give UConn headaches. It magnified one of the team’s biggest weaknesses.
The Huskies’ lack of depth remains a problem without a concrete solution. Mikayla Coombs, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Batouly Camara, who had been out since November with a sprained knee, were non-factors off the bench. The trio combined for zero points, one rebound and four fouls.
Auriemma doesn’t trust his bench. And really, at this point in the season, who can blame him?
Slow it down: Baylor committed only five turnovers. In turn, the Lady Bears’ sure-handedness prevented UConn from utilizing one of its biggest strengths.
The Huskies, who usually pick opponents apart in the open court, didn’t score a single fast-break point. Not one.
Take a deep breath: The inevitable happened. UConn lost.
Yes, for the first time since Nov. 17, 2014 (Stanford, 88-86 in overtime), someone discovered the secret to beating the Huskies in the regular season.
You see, a perception exists that the Huskies, who have been to 11 consecutive Final Fours, are invincible. For the longest time, they’ve lived in what Auriemma calls “fantasy land.”
The reality is this: UConn has flaws just like every other team in the country, and Baylor just so happened to expose them.
Thursday’s loss wasn’t a referendum on the 2018-19 season. In fact, it might only be a footnote if the Huskies can resolve their problems before March.