Published February 19. 2013 4:00AM
Hartford — It turned out that that Brittney Griner's first half - four points, 2-for-8 shooting - was merely Secretariat in a trot.
Because the nation's best player responded accordingly with a second half befitting every accolade deservedly rained on her. She scored 21 of her game-high 25 points, torturing UConn in the post, shooting 8-for-12 from the field.
And she led No. 1 Baylor to a 76-70 win over No. 3 UConn Monday night before a pink-clad, sellout crowd of 16,294 at the XL Center.
Griner, who had nine rebounds and four assists, also scored the 3,000th point of her career.
UConn has lost to No. 1 Baylor and No. 2 Notre Dame at home this season.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma thanked the crowd over the public address system after the game and said, "We're just not good enough to beat these guys yet."
Brooklyn Pope scored 18 points for Baylor (25-1) and Kimetra Hayden had 11. Odyssey Sims had nine on 3-for-15 shooting.
Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis led UConn with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Bria Hartley had 13 points and Stefanie Dolson and Morgan Tuck had 11 apiece.
"I told them to keep throwing her the ball," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said, alluding to Griner's 2-for-8 from the field in the first half. "She scored her 3,000th point in a big game. A significant game."
Griner said, "UConn doubled me hard and made me give up the ball. My team did a great job cutting so I could see them."
With UConn trailing 63-56, Auriemma inserted forward Kiah Stokes in an effort to contain Griner, who had just authored a sequence of offensive rebounds on the same possession.
UConn's two defensive stands and subsequent scores made it 67-65 Baylor until Griner hit a baseline 12-footer with 2:33 left to make it 69-65.
On UConn's next possession, Pope stole the ball from Moriah Jefferson and had what looked like an easy layup. Jefferson, however, sprinted back and deflected the ball out of bounds.
Pope, however, scored on the inbounds and Baylor led 71-65 with 1:40 left.
Mosqueda-Lewis responded with a jumper to make it 71-67.
Dolson fouled Griner with 1:05 left. Griner made both free throws to make it 73-67. Griner's second free throw was the 3,000th point of her career.
Pope's steal and score with 47 seconds left sealed it.
Baylor took its first lead at 30-29 early in the second half. UConn followed with a quick run to make it 41-34 on Hartley's transition layup and an ensuing foul.
Griner pulled Dolson down behind the play and was whistled for a flagrant foul. Dolson made both free throws and UConn retained possession.
Baylor went on a 9-0 run to regain the lead.
Kelly Faris and Hayden traded threes and Baylor had a 47-46 lead with 12:13 left. After the play, Griner and Dolson were tangled again, although no foul was called.
Sims made a three and had an assist to Pope that gave the Bears a 54-50 lead with 9:15 left.
Dolson responded with a three to cut the lead to one and got the crowd that had become a bit subdued back into the game. That's until Griner scored and was fouled by Dolson. Griner made the free throw and gave the Bears a 57-53 lead.
Sims made two free throws with 7:40 left to give Baylor its biggest lead at 61-56.
Griner caught a lob from Sims and made it 63-56 one possession later.
The Huskies led 29-26 at halftime, although Baylor rallied from 27-18 deficit late in the half.
UConn's lead could have been greater, given that it held Griner and Sims to a combined 3-for-18 shooting in the half.
Griner had three assists.