Even teams as good as UConn have off nights, and Wednesday was certainly one of those nights for the Huskies. After going down by as much as 12 points in the second half on the road against Oklahoma, UConn managed to claw back and beat the Sooners 72-63 to get to 10-0 on the season.
While it isn’t a good thing for a team to struggle, the Huskies showed they could deal with adversity and fight back, even when their shots weren’t falling. It’s good to see they were able to bounce back and pull out a win against young (but talented) Oklahoma team on the road.
As dominant as the Huskies have been for the past 25 years, road games still can be tricky. UConn hasn’t lost a road game (or regular season game for that matter) since an overtime loss to Stanford in 2014, but there have been a few close calls similar to this season’s Oklahoma game.
So, in order to try and figure out how the Huskies might react to the near loss against the Sooner when they take on California, let’s look back at some recent close games and see how UConn did after.
February 18, 2016 at Tulane - UConn 63, Tulane 60
An iconic moment in American Athletic Conference women’s basketball history. The Green Wave almost handed UConn their first-ever conference loss in a glorified high school gym. The Huskies shot just 38 percent from the field and nearly blew a 17-point second-half lead.
Next game: Feb. 22 at XL Center - UConn 90, Temple 45
Balance was restored in the American as the Huskies pummeled Temple at home. UConn shot 59 percent and held the Owls to 27.1 percent shooting as Napheesa Collier (31 points) and Katie Lou Samuelson (19) outscored Temple by themselves. The Huskies would go on to beat their remaining nine opponents by at least 15 points before falling to Mississippi State in the Final Four.
December 3, 2017 at XL Center - UConn 80, No. 1 Notre Dame 71
This was not a road game — shame on me for not sticking to my own rules — but this game was a similar scenario to this year’s matchup against Oklahoma, other than the fact that Notre Dame was one of the best teams in the country. Nonetheless, UConn overcame big games from Marina Mabrey (21 points) and Arike Ogunbowale (19) thanks to some key rebounds from Megan Walker down the stretch, coming back from an 11-point-fourth-quarter deficit to get the win.
Next game: Dec. 8 at DePaul - UConn 103, DePaul 69
After fighting back to beat the Irish, UConn traveled to Chicago and bludgeoned DePaul, leading by as much as 50 midway through the fourth quarter. Six Huskies scored in double figures. Safe to say UConn didn’t come out flat for this one.
Side note: UConn should really stop playing DePaul and Notre Dame back-to-back. That might come back to bite them someday.
Anyways, UConn rolled past Oklahoma, Duquesne and the start of the conference schedule until...
January 15, 2018 at Texas - UConn 75, No. 9 Texas 71
In front of over 11,000 Longhorns fans, the Huskies couldn’t shake Texas, who hung around and made it a one-point game with four minutes left to play before Crystal Dangerfield put the game away with a pair of free throws.
Next game: Jan. 18 at Gampel Pavilion - UConn 78, Tulsa 60
Should the Huskies have beaten the Golden Hurricane by more than 18 points? Probably. But even though the Huskies came out flat, the game was never really close, because it’s the American. Head coach Geno Auriemma summed it up best.
Geno: "If it was up to me everybody would get their money back. That was the most disgraceful effort that I've seen at Connecticut in my 32 years."— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) January 19, 2018
Azura Stevens led the way with 22 points and stepped up for Samuelson, who scored just three points and played only 15 minutes. After the Tulsa game, the Huskies cruised through the American schedule and picked up impressive wins over South Carolina and Louisville. They once again won the AAC tournament and lost in the Final Four, this time to Notre Dame.
This time around, UConn doesn’t have the luxury of facing a conference opponent at home for what would likely be an easy win. Instead, they’re traveling even further west to California to take on the Bears in a homecoming game for Samuelson. While the Bears are ranked No. 14 in the country, they’re still an easier draw than UConn’s next game against No. 6 Baylor on Jan. 3.
So far, Cal is 9-0 but hasn’t played a super difficult schedule. The Huskies should also expect a better shooting performance from Samuelson in her homecoming game than against the Sooners, where she still scored 20 points but shot just 1-6 from the 3-point line.
Based on past performance, it doesn’t seem like close games seem to phase this UConn team. If anything, it might help them refocus and prepare for two important road games before conference play begins.