STORRS, Conn. — Baylor supporters still insist there was a foul or two that should have been called on the final possession of the Bears’ 2021 women’s NCAA Tournament regional final against UConn. Husky fans will tell you it was just great defense.
Two years after the Huskies beat the Bears 69-67 in the San Antonio bubble, the programs will meet again, this time in a second-round game on the Huskies’ home court.
Just four players who were were on the court for the 2021 game are expected to play Monday night – UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards and Aubrey Griffin and Baylor’s Caitlin Bickle and Sarah Andrews.
Baylor also has a new coach in Nicki Collen, who took over after Kim Mulkey left for LSU.
For both teams, the rivalry remains. Andrews acknowledged she will be playing, in part, for her former teammates.
“It’s always gonna be a fun game playing against UConn,” she said. “There’s just moments that people live for to play on the stage like this. So you know, we’re gonna have fun go out there and fight hard.”
Baylor (20-12) will be looking for its 16th trip to the Sweet 16 and 13th in 14 years.
UConn (30-5) hopes to advance to the regional semifinals for a 29th straight year on the way to a potential 15th straight Final Four appearance and 12th national title.
The Huskies and the Bears have met nine times and this will be their third in the postseason. UConn has won five of those games, but Baylor has taken the last three.
But not in 2021.
UConn led 68-67 with 3.5 seconds left when Baylor’s DiJonai Carrington drove left and went up for a short jumper just outside the lane. Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa both challenged the shot and both made contact. But no foul was called and the Huskies held on.
“If I remember correctly about that particular game, there were a lot of fouls in that game,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Some were called, some were not. Whether that one was a foul or not, I don’t know.”
Neither Bickle nor Edwards wanted to revisit the subject.
“My feelings from that game – we won it,” Edwards said. “So I think that’s really what I take from that game. You know, we’re into 2023. Now we’re moving on to something better.”
In her four postseason games, the third-team All-American has averaged 21.5 points and 11.7 rebounds, with seven blocked shots.
“I think that I’ve just grown basketball-wise and just as a person, you know, realizing that I need to just be competitive and to be really dominant for my teammates and for my coaches. Every game that’s in different ways,” Edwards said. “It’s not just about putting up numbers or anything.”
The Huskies face a Baylor team that rallied from an early 18-point deficit on Saturday night to beat 10th-seeded Alabama 78-74.
UConn guard Nika Muhl said the Huskies were paying attention and don’t plan to let their foot off the gas on Monday, especially after allowing several teams to come back from big deficits earlier this season.
“So just having that in mind and never backing down, not even in the fourth quarter or if we’re up 20, it doesn’t matter,” she said.
Collen hopes it doesn’t come to that.
“You can’t spot UConn 10 points, let alone 18,” she said. “We know that. That’s no disrespect to Alabama because I thought they were fantastic. But this is UConn’s home court. You already feel like when you play on someone else’s home court, you got to be 10 points better than them.”
She said it
Baylor is staying at a hotel near Bradley International Airport, about 45 minutes from the rural UConn campus in Eastern Connecticut.
“I think one of the most impressive things that Geno did here was ever get someone to come here, which sounds horrible,” Collen said. “But when you know that they have to fly into Hartford for an official visit, and then they have to make that drive. And I told (assistant coach Tony Greene), I said, ‘Well, they can put shades in the limo and, like, talk about the 13 (actually 11) championships now.’ No one’s looking out the window at the woods anymore. So I think what’s so impressive is kind of the beginning here, why they became good.”
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