Sports

Griner’s 25 points help No. 1 Baylor topple No. 3 Connecticut

UConn’s defense swarmed Brittney Griner, but the 6-foot-8-inch center still scored 25 points to power Baylor to its 23d consecutive victory.
UConn’s defense swarmed Brittney Griner, but the 6-foot-8-inch center still scored 25 points to power Baylor to its 23d consecutive victory.jessica hill/associated press

Brittney Griner scored 25 points, including the 3,000th of her career, to help No. 1 Baylor rally past third-ranked Connecticut, 76-70, Monday night in Hartford, extending the Lady Bears’ winning streak to 23 games.

Griner became the eighth player in Division 1 history to reach the milestone, doing it on two free throws with 1:05 left. She finished with 21 points in the second half.

‘‘Just got more aggressive,’’ Griner said. ‘‘Coach told me I need to be more aggressive in the paint, go to the goal, so that’s what I did.’’

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The defending national champion Lady Bears’ only loss this season came in Hawaii against Stanford back in November. Baylor (25-1) went 40-0 last season en route to the school’s second national championship.

Baylor led, 54-53, midway through the second half before Griner took over. She scored 7 points during a quick burst, and her putback made it 67-61 with five minutes left.

UConn rallied behind Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to make it 67-65, but Griner answered with a putback. Then she hit the two milestone free throws 1:30 later to make it 73-67 and seal the win.

‘‘It’s always good to give yourself a gauge of what you need to work on,’’ Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. ‘‘I told them at halftime, it’s been a long time since we've had to execute on offense. We’re so athletic and so good and so talented, we just go play basketball. But against good teams who play great defensively, you must execute.”

Griner had missed key free throws down the stretch when she was a sophomore and her team lost at Connecticut by 1 point. She wasn’t going to let that happen again, beating the only team in the country that she didn’t have a winning record against.

The game, hyped all season, lived up to its billing — even though neither coach wanted to put too much emphasis on this one, knowing there will be a lot more at stake if the schools meet again in the NCAA Tournament.

‘‘We’re just not good enough yet to beat these guys tonight,’’ Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said.

UConn led by 3 at halftime and expanded the advantage to 41-34 after Griner was called for a flagrant foul for grabbing Stefanie Dolson in the backcourt after the 6-foot-8-inch center had turned the ball over.

That just seemed to fuel Griner and the Lady Bears, who scored the next 8 points to take a 42-41 lead with 14:03 left.

Griner, who came into the game averaging 19 points, 7.7 blocks, and 7.3 rebounds against UConn, passed LaToya Thomas of Mississippi State to move into eighth on the women’s career scoring list.

Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 26 points to lead UConn (24-2).

Kentucky 70, Texas A&M 66 — DeNesha Stallworth had 12 points, 12 rebounds, and a school-record 7 blocks as the No. 8 Wildcats (23-3, 11-2 SEC) held off the 10th-ranked Aggies (20-6, 10-2) in College Station, Texas.

Men

Notre Dame 51, Pittsburgh 42 — Jerian Grant and Jack Cooley scored 13 points each and the 25th-ranked Fighting Irish (21-6, 9-5 Big East) overcame a horrendous shooting start to beat the No. 20 Panthers (20-7, 8-6) on the road.

The Irish missed 18 of their first 19 field goal attempts and trailed, 19-3, as late as 13:54 into the game. However, they rallied to take the lead in the second half and won going away.

Kansas State 71, West Virginia 61 — Will Spradling scored 19 points and the No. 14 Wildcats (21-5, 10-3 Big 12) used a big first-half run to spoil the return of Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins to the school he helped rebuild. West Virginia dropped to 13-13, 6-7.

Fairfield 66, Iona 64 — Derek Needham scored 17 points, including the winning 3-pointer with five seconds left to lift the Stags (17-11, 8-7 Metro Atlantic) over the Gaels (15-12, 9-7) in Bridgeport, Conn.

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