HARTFORD, Conn. -- In the fourth quarter Thursday, No. 1 UConn looked like the Huskies often make other teams look: not good. But his team's worst loss in 13 years actually didn't make coach Geno Auriemma too frustrated. It's almost as if he saw this first loss of the season coming, especially at the hands of defending national champion Baylor.
For the second year in a row, Baylor ended a UConn women's basketball streak, this one for consecutive home victories. And with their 74-58 win Thursday night at the XL Center, the Lady Bears guaranteed we'll have a new No. 1 team next week.
"At this time of the year, you have to treat every game -- especially like this against a really good team -- like it's another part of your class," Auriemma said. "And this is one of the tests you have to take. What would be devastating is if this was the final, and now we're done. But it's not.
"I'm a very realistic person. All I can do is get this team to be as good a team as they can be. I don't know where that is right now. We'll be better than we were today, obviously. But how good come March? I don't know."
You just don't see UConn get its lunch money taken away like this very often, and in this case, it happened thanks to a strong defensive effort in the second half by No. 6 Baylor. The Huskies scored just six points in the fourth quarter and were 2-of-18 from the field in those ice-cold 10 minutes.
"I hope we played good defense the entire game ... we didn't do anything any different in the fourth quarter than the first three quarters," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I don't know if fatigue set in for them, or our defense was just that good in the fourth quarter."
This was UConn's worst loss since March 26, 2007, against LSU (by 23 in the NCAA tournament), and its worst home loss since Dec. 5, 2005, versus North Carolina (also by 23).
Auriemma didn't sound angry afterward, but the rough fourth quarter and margin of the loss brought out his famed sarcastic wisecracks. All UConn players have to get used to his barbs at times, and this was one of those times.
"Let me tell you how immature they are too: There's a minute left in the game and they're fouling, thinking we could get a 16-point play," Auriemma said. "Is that dumb or what? We're going to lose by eight -- what's the difference if we lose by 17? Ha, dummies."
The Huskies are known for their streaks; this one was for home victories, which stood at 98 and includes this building in downtown Hartford and Gampel Pavilion on campus in Storrs. The Huskies were one home win away from tying the record held by UConn teams from 2007 to 2012.
But Baylor handed the Huskies their first loss at either of their home arenas since March 12, 2013. That night, during Breanna Stewart's freshman season, they lost here at the XL Center to Notre Dame in the Big East tournament final. That was an emotional defeat for UConn, but the Huskies followed it by winning the NCAA tournament the next four years in a row.
But UConn has been defeated in the national semifinals the past three years, and this is the first season in quite a while that it doesn't have anyone on the team who has won an NCAA title. The Huskies lost top scorers Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson from last year's squad.
"You know, we have a really young team. Young in terms of being able to play in this kind of game," Auriemma said. "They don't know how to play in this kind of game. You're counting on them to make shots that other people used to make for them."
Baylor, meanwhile, has a whole team of players with championship experience, including three starters who returned from last year's squad. But one of their newcomers -- graduate transfer Te'a Cooper, who spent last season at South Carolina -- led the way with 27 points. And in the second half, Baylor seemed to wear down UConn.
Last season, at Baylor's Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, the Lady Bears beat then-No. 1 UConn 68-57, ending the Huskies' regular-season win streak at 126. So that's two different Huskies streaks ended in two years. But Mulkey wasn't making much of that.
"I don't think I ever mentioned that to the team in a scouting report to motivate them," Mulkey said of preparing for UConn. "But, wow. We just happened to be the team that beat them. It's not any more than that. Streaks are made to be broken."
Maybe so, but this game told us a lot about Baylor. A year ago, the Lady Bears' early-January win over UConn showed they might have what it took to be a Final Four team. As it turned out, they had what it took to win the program's third NCAA title.
This season, senior star Lauren Cox missed eight games as she dealt with a stress reaction in her right foot. Cox returned to action on Dec. 30, playing 22 minutes against Morehead State, and then was in for 34 minutes on Jan. 4 versus Oklahoma.
She played in Thursday's game for all but 17 seconds, scoring 16 points on 6-of-15 shooting, plus had six rebounds, four assists and four blocks.
"I felt good; I kind of had to catch my second wind," Cox said. "I still have a ways to go as far as getting my touch back, getting in shape. I had a pretty good idea when I'd be able to come back. I wasn't really too worried about it. I am excited to be out there again."
The past three years, Cox played alongside 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown, who is now in the WNBA. This season, sophomore forward NaLyssa Smith is starting along with Cox, and she was very good Thursday with 20 points (9-of-13 from the field) and 12 rebounds. Contrast that with UConn's starting forward duo of Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Kyla Irwin, who were a combined 0-of-12 from the field and were scoreless. Nelson-Ododa didn't play at all in the fourth quarter, but Auriemma thinks she'll learn from it.
Christyn Williams had 21 points, Megan Walker 18 and Crystal Dangerfield 16, but that wasn't enough for UConn.
Oregon began the season at No. 1, but then Stanford took over the top spot after the Ducks lost to Louisville during a Thanksgiving tournament. Then Texas' victory over Stanford on Dec. 22 propelled UConn to No. 1 , to Auriemma's chagrin, because he didn't think the Huskies deserved to be there.
Oregon is now No. 2 and plays at Arizona State and Arizona this weekend; if the Ducks win both, they'll probably ascend to No. 1 again. Where will Baylor end up in the rankings? Mulkey didn't sound concerned about it; the Lady Bears host Oklahoma State on Sunday, and that's her next focus.
She was in good spirits after the game, even singing some country song lyrics in her postgame news conference, but Mulkey knows well there is still a long way to go.
"We knew it would be a good game and watched nationally," Mulkey said. "We're trying to win our 10th consecutive Big 12 title, trying to get a good seed in the NCAA tournament. I don't think there is one team that is just head and shoulders above anybody. I think there's about six teams that have the ability, the talent and the coaching to win it all this year. Now don't ask me who those six are. I think we're one of them, and I think Connecticut is one of them."
On Thursday, Baylor looked more ready to defend its title than UConn looked ready to try to take it away.