HARTFORD, Conn. — Three weeks before she would travel to face an opponent she thought often about this summer, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey sat in her office at the Ferrell Center and reflected on the moment when last season was lost.
Playing a spirited second half against UConn in last year’s national semifinals in San Antonio, Baylor clawed its way back into a game most thought it would lose, cutting UConn’s halftime lead from 13 to three with 14:55 remaining. Staggered, UConn coach Geno Auriemma did something that rarely happened last year: He called a timeout to settle his team down.
At that moment, the green-and-gold side of The Alamodome was in a frenzy, and Mulkey herself was a fist-pumping vision of intensity, imploring her team to finish the job. “But when we left that timeout, we did not know how to handle ourselves,” Mulkey recalled. The true youth surfaced and the experience of UConn took over. “Was it mental fatigue? Was it conditioning? Was it inexperience? Was it lack of focus? Was it patting ourselves on the back? Whatever it was, when we came out of that timeout, that’s when we lost the game.”
Tuesday night in Hartford everything was different except the result. UConn won its 80th straight game, but call it what it was: The Huskies survived. The final was 65-64 and Auriemma, in speaking to the crowd of 12,628 at the XL Center, sounded like a relieved man. “We just a beat a hell of a team,” he said. “I don’t think anyone has come in here in a long time and given us that kind of run.”