The result was never in question but the win made it official: This UConn women’s team now owns the record for the longest winning streak in Division I basketball history, capturing its 91st consecutive victory with an 88-48 triumph over SMU.
“You can always win more national championships, maybe. You can always go to more Final Fours, maybe. But an opportunity to do something like this doesn’t come along quite often,” said head coach Geno Auriemma in his postgame interview with SNY. “It’s something special and something really significant. I have a lot of words but usually when it comes to this stuff, I don’t.
“It’s like a fairy tale.”
An accomplishment of this magnitude is incredible in itself. But throughout the streak, UConn won all but two games by double-digits. Not only that, they survived the graduation of three All-Americans and remarkably continued to dominate.
While some may say that the Huskies’ level of dominance is bad for women’s college basketball, it’s just the opposite. The more the win, the more people will talk about them, follow the sport and tune into games. When the inevitable day comes when UConn does lose, it’s going to be the top story on every network. If that much publicity for women’s college basketball is not good, I don’t know what is.
While the Huskies cruised to an easy win, it wasn’t the prettiest by any means.
UConn dominated from the get-go, opening with a 21-0 run and holding SMU scoreless for the first 7:57. The Mustangs struggled getting the ball to the rim, as the Huskies blocked four shots in the first three minutes.
While UConn’s defense held strong, the offense faltered a bit. After starting 6-of-8 from the field, they fell below 50% for the quarter. However, they still finished the first ten minutes with a 26-2 lead, the fewest points allowed in any quarter during the streak.
The second quarter would not see the same dominance, as UConn seemed to let up. The Huskies scored just two points before the media timeout and struggled with turnovers and fouls.
Coming out of the timeout, the Huskies regrouped and closed the half with an 11-0 run. Katie Lou Samuelson scored nine of the 11 points, capped off by a buzzer beater to send them into the half leading 44-18.
The third quarter wasn’t much of an improvement from the second as UConn continued to play below its standards They spread the points around but the defense lagged, allowing 16 points. The scoring went back-and-forth before the Huskies used a quick 6-0 at the end of the period to augment their lead.
With the game well in hand, Geno went to his bench for much of the final quarter, giving his starters some much-needed rest. It also opened the opportunity for Molly Bent to prove she could contribute off the bench with Crystal Dangerfield out for the next two weeks. Bent wasn’t spectacular, but she showed that she can at least hold her own and give the starters some rest.
Katie Lou Samuelson was the go-to scorer for the Huskies, finishing with 28 points on 11-of-21 shooting. She was key in getting UConn’s offense back on its feet when they struggled at points during the second and third quarter.
Down low, the Huskies were anchored by both Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams. Both finished with double-doubles; Williams scored 19 points and pulled in 10 rebounds while Collier also scored 19 but led the team with a career-high 16 rebounds.
Walk-on Tierney Lawlor scored her first point of the season when she hit a free-throw with 42 seconds left.
While this game will be remembered for their record-setting 91st-straight win, it was arguably the worst game the Huskies have played all season outside of the opening quarter. Hopefully, it will be just a blip on the radar going forward and the triumphant result will all that will be remembered going forward. It really is a spectacular accomplishment. 91 and counting.
The Huskies will be in action next on Tuesday at Tulsa.