Sports

Tough Test For Women In Waco

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Bria Hartley vs. Baylor; Feb. 18, 2013 (Credit: Bob Stowell/UConn)

Bria Hartley vs. Baylor; Feb. 18, 2013 (Credit: Bob Stowell/UConn)

By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Basketball Writer

WACO, Texas (AP) _ Odyssey Sims has never lost a home game with Baylor, which has a 69-game home winning streak spanning the career of the All-American senior guard.

That current nation’s best streak gets a significant test when the No. 7 Lady Bears (14-1) host top-ranked Connecticut (17-0) on Monday night.

“It will be a good game. They’re pretty big in size. We’re a little undersized this year. But we’ll figure it out,” said Sims, the national scoring leader at 31.8 points a game. “And I’ll just tell you, it won’t be a blowout. It will be a tough game for them and us, so just be ready for it.”

UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s teams have been involved in many home-court winning streaks, maintaining their own and breaking others.

Baylor is the third team to reach 69 straight home wins. Tennessee had its streak broken by UConn in 1996; the Huskies had their string snapped by Duke in 2004.

UConn holds the NCAA record with 99 wins in a row at home, a streak ended nearly two years ago by St. John’s. The closest any team has gotten to that was Stanford, with 82 straight until UConn won at Maples Pavilion last season.

“Games like this always kind of test you and test how much your team has grown,” said Breanna Stewart, UConn’s top scorer at 18.1 points per game. “Everyone is going to have to show up and prove how much they’ve gotten better.”

This will be the fifth meeting between the powerhouse women’s programs with the two active coaches who have won the largest percentage of their games. Auriemma has an 856-133 record (.866 winning percentage) in his 29th season, and Kim Mulkey is 386-82 (.825) in her 14th season at Baylor. They are 2-2 against each other.

“I like getting away from whatever league games you are playing. I like the bigness of it. I like the challenge of it,” Auriemma said.

Both teams are coming off lopsided home wins Saturday to stay undefeated in their respective conferences. American Athletic Conference-leading UConn beat Temple 80-36. Baylor won 80-46 over TCU and is the only Big 12 team without a league loss.

“It’s not like Monday is going to take all the focus and all the attention away from winning your conference championship,” Auriemma said. “When was the last time a conference championship was important? Baylor is playing for a national championship. Connecticut is playing for a national championship.”

Mulkey, the only women’s coach to win a national title as a player and a coach, takes a different approach.

“I just prioritize. I think your conference is more important,” Mulkey said. “I said that when we were No. 1 in the conference. Your conference comes first, then the NCAA tournament. I guess he just has a difference of opinion. He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, he’s won eight championships. But for our team, we’re not over-emphasizing it.”

UConn and the Lady Bears first met in the 2010 Final Four, a 70-50 win by the Huskies that ended Brittney Griner’s freshman season. This will be the first meeting without the 6-foot-8 center and two-time AP player of the year.

No. 2 Baylor lost 65-64 at the No. 1 Huskies early the next season. The Lady Bears were the No. 1 team and won the last two meetings _ a 1-2 matchup in Waco two seasons ago and at then-No. 3 UConn last year.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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