Column: Time to pay attention to UConn's near-historic win streak

Connecticut's Crystal Dangerfield (5) drives by Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen (15) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. Connecticut won 72-61. (Robert Franklin/AP)

Eighty-three games.

That’s how many games in a row the UConn women’s basketball team has won following a 72-61 dismantling of No. 2 Notre Dame on the road. For any other school that isn’t UCLA, whose men’s team won 88 in a row from 1971-74, that’s an unprecedented number. For UConn, who owns three of the longest win streaks in collegiate basketball history, that number often gets forgotten.

Maybe it’s because the Huskies have already been there and done that. They do own a 90-game win streak of their own, after all. Maybe it’s because their coaches and players really don’t care about the streak. Maybe the players just don’t know any better, since they’ve known nothing but winning in their time in Storrs. There are a lot of other reasons that probably factor into it as well, but if one thing is clear after the 11-point win over the Irish, it’s this: It’s time to pay attention to this streak.

Last year, UConn was expected to win every game, and rightfully so. Having the three best players in the country makes that a pretty fair expectation. And sure enough, they did just that on their way to their fourth-straight national title.

But this year was supposed to be different. There would be no Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck or Moriah Jefferson to step up when it mattered most. It was nearly universally agreed upon that they would lose a game early on with their stacked nonconference slate, whether it be Florida State, Baylor or Notre Dame to name a few. They could even lose, dare I say it, multiple games, which, would probably send the fan base into a full-blown frenzy. Instead, they survived against FSU and handled Baylor and Notre Dame with relative ease.

This young team is growing up in front of our eyes into one that is just as good as nearly any of Geno Auriemma’s 11 national championship teams. This streak will die eventually, without a doubt. But with the way UConn is playing now, it doesn’t seem like it will anytime soon.

Granted, UConn is not out of the woods (meaning reaching American Athletic Conference play) just yet. A tough road matchup against Kansas State, who was just a few votes short of this week’s AP top 25, is up next, followed by a dangerous No. 12 Ohio State team at the XL Center. Then there’s a brutal road matchup for possible win No. 87 on the road against No. 4 Maryland, who played the Huskies much closer than the 10-point win UConn pulled out over the Terrapins last season at Madison Square Garden.

None of those games are easy. But based on the way this team has played so far this season, it’s not out of the question to see the Huskies going for win No. 90 against USF Jan. 10 at the XL Center. While the big three of Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson is long gone, the core of Katie Lou Samuelson, Kia Nurse, Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams has proved to be nearly as potent.

One of those four has risen to the occasion each game this season and stepped up when it mattered most, whether it be Nurse’s 33 points against DePaul, Williams’ double-double against ND or any of Collier and Samuelson’s near 30-point games this season. This year’s team won’t steamroll opponents like the teams of Stewart’s era. Instead, one of the four rises to the top and terrorizes their opponent’s biggest weakness for 40 minutes. It’s not as pretty, but just as effective.

While this year’s team is hitting its stride and Auriemma is in the midst of one his best coaching jobs ever, the streak will end eventually, whether it’s before the 90-game mark, well after against South Carolina or even next season. Enjoy it while it lasts, and don’t take the streak for granted. After all, it is a rebuilding year.


Dan Madigan is the sports editor for The Daily Campus, covering football and women's basketball. He can be reached via email at daniel.madigan@uconn.edu. He tweets @dmad1433.