UCONN-Baylor: Potential game of the year overshadowed by a non foul call

Anytime you get the two best teams in the country facing off, it has the potential to be the game of the year. Viewers of the UCONN-Baylor Women’s Elite 8 game got just that.

The game had all the ingredients for game of the year.

Star power in UCONN’s Paige Bueckers and Baylor’s DiDi Richards.

Elite coaches in UCONN’s coach Geno Auriemma and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.

A ferocious comeback.

A close game coming down to the final possession.

Oh and a controversial no call on the final Baylor possession.

But you see that last one is always the one that lets the air out of the excitement, overshadows the great game which just took place, dominating the discussions the next day.

But let’s rewind the tape and relive the great game from the start, giving these women the respect they deserve.

Leading up to the game, Auriemma and Baylor coach Kim Mulkey discussed their teams’ seeding. Auriemma thought Baylor’s No. 2 seed was lower than deserved, but that added to the game’s intensity and difficulty.

“This was harder than winning some of the national championship games that we’ve won, without question,” he said.

UConn came out firing Monday night, building a 16-4 lead midway through the first quarter. The Huskies controlled the pace and took advantage of the fast break before Baylor sped up the game for itself. The quarter breezed by in a back-and-forth scoring clash, and UConn was up 26-24 heading into the second quarter.

But that was just the first of the fierce comebacks in this game.

Baylor took its first lead in the second quarter behind DiJonai Carrington, a force off the bench for the Lady Bears. She scored 14 of her team-high 22 points in the first half. UConn went the final three minutes without scoring and went into halftime down 39-37.

“We thought, ‘Man, to only be down two, we’re fortunate,’” Auriemma said.

The start of the third quarter didn’t get much better for Auriemma’s Huskies as Baylor came out firing.

In the third quarter, Carrington and NaLyssa Smith proved a devastating combo UConn struggled to find an answer for. UConn’s post players, Aaliyah Edwards and Olivia Nelson-Ododa, were also in foul trouble, making life in the paint more difficult.

Baylor was soon up by 10 points, but now without their reigning Naismith Defensive Player of the Year DiDi Richards who went down with a hamstring injury minutes earlier.

Enter Paige Bueckers and the UCONN Huskies comeback.

The UCONN Huskies forced Baylor into 10 second half turnovers, via steals and timely drawn charges.

UConn ended the quarter down just two after Bueckers hit a jumper, Carrington missed a driving layup and Williams and Bueckers each connected on 3-pointers.

“The momentum just changed,” said Williams, who added 21 points.

Head Coach Auriemma attributed the change in momentum to his star player Paige Bueckers. Auriemma said Bueckers — who finished with a game-high 28 points — helped ignite everyone around her. For her efforts Monday and throughout the tournament, Bueckers was named Most Outstanding Player of the River Walk Region.

UConn carried its strong play into the fourth quarter and was on a 19-0 run before Baylor scored again. UConn had opened up a nine-point lead, but Baylor quickly responded.

The Lady Bears made it a one-possession game with 2:21 remaining. With 19 seconds to play, Carrington was fouled and hit both of her free throws, cutting into UConn’s lead, 68-67. Williams then missed two free throws for UConn, and Baylor called a timeout with 17 seconds to play and a chance to take the lead.

The next play ignited a social media and postgame controversy. As time was expiring, Carrington went up for a shot against Edwards and Nelson-Ododa, whose outstretched arms appeared to catch Carrington on the elbow. But the officials did not call a foul, leaving Carrington and Mulkey mind blown and defeated.

DiJonai Carrington, resting on one knee near the baseline, spoke for many.

“What?” she mouthed.

Post game Carrington spoke out on the non foul call.

“I personally don’t see it as a controversial call,” Carrington said. “I’ve seen the replay, and one girl fouled me in my face and one girl fouled me in my arm.”

She was even more blunt on twitter.

“You can’t swallow your whistle when the game is on the line,” she wrote. “Film does not lie.”

The frustration is justified on the losing side, but isn’t it always?

UCONN’s Auriemma took a different approach, one the winner can easily preach.

“I’d also like to look at all the fouls in the first half, where they shot 11 free throws and we shot two,” Auriemma said. “A call is a call, and you’ve got to live with it.”

He then brushed off a LeBron James tweet about it being called a foul, saying redoubts James ever went back and handed away his victories when a bad call was made.

Nonetheless the UCONN Huskies are heading to the Final 4 to face Arizona on Friday. The Huskies are looking to win their record 12th NCAA (Men or Women) championship.

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