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WACO, Texas – Odyssey Sims had never walked off Baylor's home court after a loss — until No. 1 UConn came to town.
The All-American senior guard and national scoring leader also hadn't had many shooting nights like this.
Sims scored 20 points, on 4-of-25 shooting and 10 free throws, and the No. 7 Lady Bears' national-best 69-game home winning streak came to an end in a 66-55 loss to the Huskies on Monday night.
Baylor (14-2) hadn't lost at home since a 70-54 defeat to Texas in its regular-season home finale March 7, 2010, the season before Sims arrived. Sims and fellow senior starter Makenzie Robertson, the daughter of coach Kim Mulkey, had never lost a game in the Ferrell Center.
"I don't think they're worried about that. I just think they're competitors, and you hate losing. It's not about a streak. You'll re-live the game," Mulkey said. "Odyssey will relive the game and think, 'Wow, if I would have given us a little bit more, we might have won.' Or Makenzie thinks, if I would have made a couple more free throws. That's what competitors do. But they're certainly not worried about a streak."
UConn (18-0) has have two of the five longest home winning streaks in women's basketball, their record of 99 snapped two years ago and an earlier 69-game streak. They have ended the other three, previously ending Stanford's 82-game streak last season and winning at Tennessee after the Lady Volunteers had been the first team to win 69 straight at home 18 years ago.
Stewart had 18 points and 11 rebounds in a matchup of the last two national champions. Her short baseline jumper started a game-ending 16-6 run after the Lady Bears had closed within a point when Sims made a 3-pointer with 10:54 left. Sims, who entered the game averaging 31.8 points a game, didn't score again after that.
"There were certain possessions that we had to win those possessions, and we did," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Even though we were up the whole time, it never seemed liked it was going to get away from them. ... We were timely."
It was the closest game of the season for the Huskies. They beat their first five ranked opponents by an average margin of 22 points, with the closest anybody had been at the end was 17.
"I think it builds our confidence a lot. It was a tough game, and we really had to grind it out at times, and you want to be able to respond well when things aren't going your way, and we did that," said Bria Hartley, who finished with 17 points. "I think that's a step in the right direction for us."
Freshman Nina Davis had 11 points and 17 rebounds for Baylor. Robertson had 10 points including three 3-pointers.
Moriah Jefferson had 13 points and Stefanie Dolson 10 for UConn, which has won 24 in a row overall. That matches the sixth-longest winning streak in school history, and is their second 24-game winning streak since their record 90 in a row ended in December 2010.
It is the fifth season in a row the two national powers have met, this game featuring the two winningest active coaches by percentage and four of the six college players named earlier Monday to the U.S. women's basketball national team pool — Sims and UConn teammates Stewart, Dolson and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, who were all recognized before the game. Three were preseason AP All-Americans (Sims, Stewart and Mosqueda-Lewis)
UConn won the first two meetings, 70-50 in the 2010 Final Four, and by one point at home early the following season. Baylor as the No. 1 team for the last two games, winning in Waco two years ago and at UConn last season.
After trailing 36-27 at halftime, Baylor cut the gap to 45-42 with just under 14½ minutes left when Niya Johnson scored on a layup after a bounce pass from Sims.
Auriemma called timeout, but when play resumed Johnson stole the ball from Stewart before Robertson missed a layup. Jefferson, the only player from Texas for the Huskies, then hit a 3-pointer.
"We got a great measuring stick and a gauge of how good we are, and how good we can be," Mulkey said. "When Odyssey Sims has a night like she does and you're three points of tying the ball game with the No. 1 team in the country, you feel good."