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Lady Bears Basketball Looks to Dethrone UConn Tonight - Preview and Game Thread

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No. 2 Lady Bears visit No. 3 Huskies in New England.

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NCAA Womens Basketball: UCLA at Baylor
Coach Kim Mulkey wants to know why Baylor Lady Bears ain’t on ESPN.
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Baylor Lady Bears Basketball

Baylor at UConn

Nov. 17, 2016 | 6:30 p.m. CT

Storrs, Conn. | Gampel Pavilion (10,167)

Media Coverage: TV: ESPN3/SportsNet NY; Listen beginning 6:00 p.m. CT

Pleas to keep growing the game. To promote it and sell it and bring it to as many new people to it as she can. To be an ambassador for the sport.

For the most part, she’s listened. But those days may be over.

Monday, after No. 2 Baylor’s 84-70 win over No. 9 UCLA, Mulkey vented her frustration with not only her team’s missing presence on national television despite a pair of marquee, Top 10 matchups in one week, but of the slight given to women’s basketball as a whole.

Baylor and UCLA played Monday night on Fox Southwest Plus, an offshoot network in the Fox Sports family. Thursday night, Baylor plays at four-time defending national champion, No. 3 UConn on ESPN3 and SportsNet New York — one channel available exclusively through online streaming and another that’s a regional network.

If there’s a handful of women’s games that even the common fan can point to as having national appeal this season, Baylor-UConn playing for the first time in almost three years would appear to be one of them.

Slow Motion Highlights of Baylor’s Win Over UCLA Monday Night in the Ferrell Center

  • The Hartford Courant says UConn Women Suddenly Lack Height, And Mighty Baylor Awaits. (This article contains several videos, including one where Coach Geno Auriemma doesn’t appear to have his usual swagger. There are lots of ads in this article so just keep scrolling down because there is lots more to the article than first appears.)

It was a daunting task for opponents facing UConn a few years ago, back when the Huskies could station three big bodies in the paint.

There was 6-foot-5 center Stefanie Dolson and 6-3 center Kiah Stokes, both good rebounders and shot blockers. Also up front: 6-3 forward Breanna Stewart, the best shot blocker in program history.

"It was hard for people to get shots and get anything done against us," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said Wednesday. "So I've been on the other side of it."

As the Huskies open at home against Baylor Thursday, they'll be the team trying to mount an offense against a defense defined by height. Baylor, No. 2 in the country, starts 6-4 sophomore Beatrice Mompremier and will bring 6-7 sophomore Kalani Brown off the bench along with 6-4 freshman Lauren Cox.

"It's just not easy," Auriemma said. "There's just some things we're not going to be able to control. … We just don't have that matchup. So I don't think there's any one way that we can guard them. We have to try and figure out what works best and try to keep them off balance a little bit."

UConn's starting lineup? Guards Kia Nurse, Saniya Chong and Gabby Williams, along with 6-3 guard/forward Katie Lou Samuelson and 6-1 forward Napheesa Collier. There's 6-5 reserve Natalie Butler and 6-2 freshman Kyla Irwin, but height is not a strength of the 2016-17 Huskies.

And after leaving Tallahassee, Fla., with a nailbiting 78-76 victory over Florida State Monday, UConn must battle with a team blessed with size. Auriemma knows what a difference it makes.

The 76-game winning streak is at stake. UConn has also won 49 consecutive home games and hasn't lost at Gampel Pavilion since Jan. 5, 2013, a 73-72 loss to Notre Dame.

  • Excelle sports explains Why Kia Nurse believes UConn can defy its critics and win a national title this season. From excelle sports dot com.

Both fans and foes of UConn’s women’s basketball team have every reason to doubt the four-time defending national champions this season. For the first time since the 2012–13 campaign, the Huskies aren’t ranked No. 1 in the AP’s preseason poll. The oft-perennial favorite’s current No. 3 ranking is mostly due to the fact that it is now embarking on its 2016–17 campaign without what was arguably the best class in college basketball history—one that included Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, who all went on to the WNBA last summer as the No. 1, 2 and 3 respective 2016 draft picks.

But none of this is stopping Huskies junior guard and AAC Preseason Player of the Year Kia Nurse from declaring her team the top dog to beat in Div. I college ball. Nurse, who averaged 9.3 points last season while starting every game for UConn, expects her team’s title-winning tradition to continue in 2017, even with a new cast of characters leading the way on the hardwood.

“The target on our backs this year is a little bit different because people think that there’s a little bit of a vulnerability with our team,” Nurse told Excelle Sports in a phone interview. “But every game, teams are still going to give us their best game.”

UConn extended its winning streak to 76 games Monday night after triumphing over No. 12 Florida State 78–76 in a nail-biting season opener.

  • WacoTrib’s Tony Adame reports UConn puts history aside when Baylor comes to town. From BearsExtra.

For the outside world, it’s almost impossible to talk about the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team and not mention the superlatives.

There’s the four straight national titles. There’s the 76-game winning streak. And there’s all the history that goes with the program, including a record 11 titles overall and the record 90-game winning streak from 2008-2010.

Within the program, though, there’s not a lot of looking back.

“I don’t think we really understand the accolades or the streaks or anything like that unless our media relations people tell us,” UConn junior guard Kia Nurse said. “We talk about focusing on whatever game is in front of us, then we focus on the game after that.”

The game in front of No. 3 UConn (2-0) on Thursday night is a huge one as far as early-season matchups go, with No. 2 Baylor (2-0) visiting Storrs, Conn., for the first time, with the two teams facing off in nearby Hartford in Baylor’s previous two trips east in 2010 and 2013.

“They’re a great team and they have a great coach that will always have them ready,” Baylor forward Nina Davis said. “It’s UConn, so you know it will be a great team and a great atmosphere. We have to bring our A-game.”

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