HARTFORD, Conn. - Listed at 6-foot-8, Brittney Griner is one of the biggest and most dominant players in women's basketball. Her height and skill set has her towering over most of her competition, allowing her to score at will against most opponents.
When Griner and No.1 Baylor faced No. 3 Connecticut at the XL Center on Monday night, it was a tale of two halves. After a slow start, a drastic improvement in the second half helped her team to a 76-70 victory.
"In the first half I really didn't have a good half," Griner said, who had four points on 2-of-9 shooting and five rebounds in the first half. "I didn't help out my team too much. I knew I had to come out the second half a little bit more aggressive than I was in the first so I could do something to help out."
And that is exactly what she did.
Aggressiveness was the key for Griner, who scored 21 points in the second half. She shot 8-of-12 from the field and utilized her turnaround post moves more. She was also able to add four more rebounds to her total.
She finished with 25 points and nine rebounds for Baylor (25-1).
"We trapped Brittney Griner every time she touched the ball in the first half," coach Geno Auriemma said about UConn's (24-2) defense on Griner. "Our rotations were good, we made a couple mistakes, but not many. In the second half we stopped trapping. And during one timeout I said, 'Did somebody call timeout out there on your own and say let's not trap her anymore? No. So then why aren't we trapping?' "
The traps that were set on Griner were highly effective, causing her to pass out of shots, a good adjustment that showed up with her three assists in the first half. But Griner took over when the Huskies strayed from their strategy.
"I just told them, I can't help you now," Auriemma said.
UConn center Stefanie Dolson had the duty of guarding Griner for most of the game, noting the physicality of the matchup between the two players.
"She did a great job of getting in position and turning and finishing her shots," said Dolson, who finished with 11 points and eight rebounds. "We both are pretty physical players I think and we went in there and knew it was going to be a battle and it was."
Auriemma, who has now coached Dolson in three matchups against Griner, felt that she played well against Baylor's center, despite the lack of help defense in the second half.
"I thought Stefanie played great, she just didn't get help from anybody other than Kaleena [Mosqueda-Lewis]," Auriemma said. "You're not going to be able to guard Brittney Griner for 40 minutes by yourself."
Griner's 25 points against UConn put her exactly at 3,000 points for her career, which came on two free throws with 1:05 remaining in the game. She now ranks eighth on the NCAA women's all-time scoring list.