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Baylor quietly making its move in UPS Index as UConn, Irish remain perfect

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While Connecticut and Notre Dame both remain perfect, Baylor is quietly staking its case to perhaps seriously challenge women's basketball top two teams come tournament time.

The only school within the top 10 of the UPS Performance Index to improve their standing, the Bears succeeded even when their All-America guard was not on top of her usually stellar offensive game.

In conjunction with STATS LLC, UPS has created a proprietary algorithm that gauges data covering the spectrum of a team's on-court performance. Highlighted statistics include effective field-goal percentage, effective field-goal percentage against, rebounding percentage, ball-handling efficiency and miscues.

After being combined with winning percentage and quality-of-opponent metrics, the numbers are normalized and an overall index is created for all 341 NCAA Division I teams. The scores are not meant to reflect a traditional power poll, per se, but measure a broad range of excellence and overall balance.

Overshadowed by the dominance of Connecticut and Notre Dame, the maintained momentum of 2013 national runner-up Louisville and strong seasons by South Carolina and Stanford, Baylor (24-3) continues to go about its business of winning. Since losing back-to-back games to the Huskies and Kansas in January, the sixth-ranked Bears have won a season-high 10 straight by an average margin of 21.4 points.

Up one spot in the Index to fourth, Baylor rolled to a 69-46 win over a deliberately paced TCU squad Saturday to maintain sole-possession of first place in the Big 12. The Bears held the Horned Frogs to 24.6 percent shooting and outrebounded them 48-34, flashing a couple of strengths which helped move them up the rankings.

"We didn't have the defensive pressure like we normally have until the last 10 minutes of the game and we have to understand, in a game like this, their style of playing wants to keep us low scoring and to play a half-court game," coach Kim Mulkey said.

That type of defensive performance from a team that ranks 11th in the nation in effective opponent field-goal percentage (38.8) was more than enough to overcome star Odyssey Sims' 7-of-22 shooting effort. Sims, who averages a national-best 29.6 points per game and shoots 46.0 percent, equaled a season low with 17.

"The focus is always on Odyssey particularly," TCU coach Jeff Mittie said. "The early part of the second half to get back in it, we basically tried to take her out as much as we could."

It was the third-worst shooting day of the season for Sims, who bottomed out with a 4-of-25 performance during the 66-55 home loss to UConn on Jan. 13.

But the Huskies (28-0) seem to do that to all comers. The nation's top defensive team, allowing an average of 47.0 points on 30.3 percent shooting, No. 1-ranked UConn extended its winning streak to 34 with a 92-41 rout of Houston on Saturday.

"The point isn't to see how much we can win by," said coach Geno Auriemma, who improved to 867-133 after coaching his 1,000th game at Storrs. "We are trying to prepare for the NCAA tournament, so we didn't come down here just to see what the final score is going to be, and sometimes, that's what kids fall into. You have to be aware of that."

The Huskies won't need to be aware of Notre Dame until deep in the NCAA tournament since the rivals are no longer members of the Big East and aren't scheduled to meet in the regular season. Though the Fighting Irish (27-0) average 87.1 points - 2.7 more than UConn - the Huskies are first in the Index's offensive category and own a 9.61-lead over the second-ranked Irish in the overall ratings.

Notre Dame clinched the regular-season title in its first year in the ACC with an impressive 81-70 win over No. 7 Duke on Sunday.

"We definitely enjoyed that," coach Muffet McGraw said after beating the defending conference champion Blue Devils.

Senior guard Kayla McBride went 13 of 25 from the field to finish with a career-high 31 points as the Irish opened with a 20-2 lead and kept the pressure on by forcing Duke into 23 turnovers.

"We were hitting shots. We were getting stops on defense. We were getting in transition," McBride said. ''I think we were just having fun."

It wasn't much fun for the Blue Devils (24-4), who have split their last six games but remain sixth in the Index.

Stanford is third while South Carolina slipped one spot to fifth despite extending its winning streak to nine games.

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