STORRS, Conn. (AP) – Baylor supporters still insist there was a foul or two that should have been called on the final possession of the 2021 NCAA Women’s 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.
Only four players who were on the field for the 2021 game — UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards and Aubrey Griffin and Baylor’s Caitlin Bickle and Sarah Andrews — are expected to play Monday night.
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 admitted that she will partially play for her former teammates.
“It’s always going to be a fun game against UConn,” she said. “There are only moments that people live for to play on a stage like this. So, you know, we’re going to have fun going out there and fighting hard.”
Baylor (20-12) will seek its 16th trip to the Sweet 16 and 13th in 14 years.
UConn (30-5) hopes to reach the regional semifinals for the 29th straight year en route to a potential 15th consecutive Final Four appearance and 12th national title.
The Huskies and Bears have met nine times and this will be their third in the postseason. UConn won five of those games, but Baylor took the last three.
But not in 2021.
UConn led 68-67 with 3.5 seconds left when Baylor’s DiJonai Carrington drove left and headed for a short jumper just outside the lane. Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa contested the kick and both made contact. But no foul was called and the Huskies held on.
“If I remember that game correctly, there were a lot of fouls in that game,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Some were invited, some were not. Whether it 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 what I took from that game. You know, we’re into 2023. Now we’re moving on to something better.”
In his four postseason games, the third-team All-American averaged 21.5 points and 11.7 rebounds, along with seven blocked shots.
“I think I’ve just gotten basketball wise and just as a person, you know, I’ve realized that I just need to be competitive and be really dominant for my teammates and for my coaches. Every game is in different ways,” Edwards said, “No it’s just about putting up numbers or something.”
The Huskies face a Baylor team that rallied from an early 18-point deficit to defeat No. 10 Alabama 78-74 on Saturday night.
UConn guard Nika Muhl said the Huskies are paying attention and don’t plan on taking their foot off the gas Monday, especially after allowing several teams to come back from big deficits earlier this season.
“So just keeping that in mind and never giving up, 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 have the feeling that when you play on someone else’s court, you have to be 10 points better than them.”
SHE SAID THAT
Baylor stayed at a hotel near Bradley International Airport, about 45 minutes from UConn’s rural campus in eastern Connecticut.
“I think one of the most impressive things that Geno did here was get somebody to come here, which sounds terrible,” Collen said. “But when you know they have to fly to Hartford for an official visit, and then they have to go on that drive. And I said to (assistant coach Tony Greene), I said, ‘Well, they can put shades in the limo and, like, talk about 13 (actually 11) championships now.’ No one looks out the window at the forest anymore. So I think what’s so impressive is kind of the start here, why they’ve gotten good.”
AP March Madness coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25