UConn and Baylor had met eight times and won four times each.
“I wish it was for the national championship and no chance of reaching a Final Four because I think both programs are elite and it’s a shame someone has to lose,” Mulkey told reporters on Sunday.
The matchup that took place at the start of the tournament was due in part to the depth at the top of the 64-man field, with Baylor finishing second as one of several impressive teams that could certainly be considered a title contender. Already in that tournament, a few teams were tested at the top, and a No. 1 seed, North Carolina State, was upset in Indiana in the round of 16.
“Tell me how you are number 2,” Auriemma said of Baylor on Sunday. “These things happen, I know, but I think they deserve to be number 1 if you look around the rest of the tournament.”
To reach the round of 16, Baylor blew past his opponents in the first and second round, but needed overtime to prevail against Michigan in the regional semifinals (78-75).
The tournament’s best player was NaLyssa Smith, a junior forward from Converse, Texas, who fired 26 of her 33 shots in that tournament before Monday’s game, including all 11 she scored in Baylor’s knockout knockout round. She had 14 points against UConn.
UConn has had three clear wins in this tournament, the first two without Auriemma after contracting the coronavirus. The Huskies won in the round of 16 with Caitlin Clark, Division I’s top scorer, and Iowa with a 92-72 win on Saturday. Bueckers was the Huskies’ excitement – 62 points, 23 rebounds and 18 assists in their first three tournament games – but Saturday’s game reminded opponents that UConn’s depth is the real weapon.
Indiana gave Arizona a run for its money in a low-score game. After falling behind in the third quarter, the Hoosiers ended the game for the fourth quarter thanks to a pull-up jumper of Aleksa Gulbe’s second chance.