UConn looking to begin new winning streak
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.