UConn look­ing to be­gin new win­ning streak

The News-Times (Sunday) - - Sports - By Doug Bon­jour

WACO, Texas — The last time the UConn women’s bas­ket­ball team lost back-to-back games, se­niors Napheesa Col­lier and Katie Lou Sa­muel­son had not yet been born. Nei­ther had fresh­men Christyn Wil­liams, Olivia Nel­son-Ododa or any­one else on the cur­rent ros­ter.

That’s right, it’s been al­most 26 cal­en­dar years since the Huskies dropped two straight con­tests. On March 7, 1993, the Huskies lost 87-73 to Prov­i­dence in the Big East Tour­na­ment. Then, 10 days later, they were bounced from the first round of the NCAA Tour­na­ment by Lou- isville, 74-71.

The next sea­son, the Huskies went 30-3 and lost in the Elite Eight to North Carolina. What they didn’t do, though, was lose con­sec­u­tive games. Same with 1994-95 — when they won their first na­tional cham­pi­onship un­der Geno Auriemma — and the 24 sea­sons af­ter that.

“I think peo­ple some­times get this im­pres­sion that at UConn, we have this magic dust and our kids are all per­fect play­ers and they’re all great stu­dents, they all shoot the ball great and ev­ery time we shoot it, it goes in — it’s just a mat­ter of how much we’re go­ing to win by,” said

Auriemma, who was re­flec­tive af­ter Thurs­day’s 68-57 loss to No. 8 Bay­lor. “It’s taken for granted, I think. When you re­al­ize how hard it is, I think you ap­pre­ci­ate even more what we’ve done.”

The Huskies had won 126 straight games in the reg­u­lar sea­son, in­clud­ing 11 this year to vault to the top of the As­so­ci­ated Press poll, be­fore run­ning into a taller, more phys­i­cal Bay­lor squad.

“You’re al­lowed to get beat once in a while,” Auriemma con­tin­ued. “What fun would it be if you won all the time? Then it would be like an ex­hi­bi­tion. It wouldn’t be a game. We could save the plane fare. Just call you up, ask you what you want the score to be, and stay home.”

Each of the last two sea­sons, the Huskies’ lone de­feat came in the Fi­nal Four. This time around, they find them­selves still only in Jan­uary, own­ing a some­what un­fa­mil­iar record: 11-1.

The Huskies will have a chance to bounce back when they open Amer­i­can Ath­letic Con­fer­ence play Sun­day at Hous­ton (noon).

“We have a game on Sun­day,” Sa­muel­son said. “It’s a sit­u­a­tion that we’ve never been in be­fore. We’re learn­ing from it.”

Like Sa­muel­son, Col­lier, who had won her pre­vi­ous 98 reg­u­lar-sea­son games at UConn, called the rare set­back a “learn­ing tool.” She said the Huskies, who will as­suredly fall in the poll Mon­day, need to be bet­ter pre­pared the next time some­one like Bay­lor comes gun­ning for them.

“We knew what they were, but I think we were just a lit­tle bit hes­i­tant on what we needed to do,” Col­lier said.

Added Sa­muel­son: “We knew what we should’ve done, and we felt it on the court and we ex­pe­ri­enced it. We were like, ‘This is how it should be go­ing and how we should be play­ing,’ and then it kind of died back down. We look back and that kind of sucks.”

The Huskies couldn’t af­ford any slip-ups against Bay­lor, a two-time na­tional cham­pion. The sched­ule will start to lighten in dif­fi­culty with AAC play, though the Huskies don’t in­tend to scale back their in­ten­sity.

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