HARTFORD – Ninety games. Ninety wins.
Ninety and counting, that is. The UConn Huskies women’s basketball team has managed to do the unbelievable yet again, winning their 90th consecutive game for the second time by defeating the No. 20 USF Bulls 102-37 in a flat-out wire-to-wire dominant performance.
“The fact that [the streak] has happened twice in the same program, that’s not by accident and that’s not just because of talent,” junior forward Gabby Williams said.
The Huskies (15-0) got off to a good start for win No. 90, moving the ball around for the entire shot clock for the opening possession before Williams fed Saniya Chong for a corner three. Not even a minute later, Williams was the playmaker once again. This time she found Katie Lou Samuelson cutting into the paint for an easy layup.
UConn forced the Bulls (13-2) to take a timeout after a 9-0 run in the first 2:45 of the game took the wind out of a potential upset. The Huskies’ lead would continue to grow with about five minutes remaining in the first quarter as Napheesa Collier got up for a huge offensive rebound and put-back for the old-fashioned three-point play. Samuelson would follow that up with an incredible one-handed touch pass to Williams through traffic for the bucket, before UConn ended USF’s miserable first quarter with a 30-6 lead.
The second quarter didn’t go much better for the Bulls as the Huskies got off to a 13-4 run in the first four minutes. The offensive barrage would continue as Kia Nurse put the Huskies up 55-13 after a pair of free throws with 3:34 remaining in the first half. And it wouldn’t stop there as Natalie Butler drained a jumper from the elbow to beat the halftime buzzer to give UConn a 65-19 lead after the second quarter. The 65 point showing was the most the Huskies put up in a single half since their 68-point half against Pacific on Nov. 15, 2012.
“The way the first 20 minutes were played, we played like a team that was, tonight anyway, on a mission to do something that was really important to them,” Auriemma said. “I told them in the locker room, that’s as good a 20 minutes of basketball as any of them have ever been a part of. For them, that was pretty special what happened today.”
The second half was more of the same for UConn, as they stormed to an 82-26 lead with 2:35 remaining in third quarter on the back of a huge performance by Williams. Williams scored five points, hauled in six rebounds, and made three assists in the first seven minutes of the quarter, giving her an 11 point, 13 rebound double-double. Unfortunately for Williams, she was rested for the remainder of the game after only 21 minutes played and was left three assists shy of becoming the fifth player in UConn women’s basketball history to record a triple-double.
“Gabby Williams is like the Lawrence Taylor of women’s basketball. Whatever play you’re trying to run, it ain’t going to happen,” Auriemma said. “She is just so disruptive and creates so much so many ways. She just makes plays that the average basketball player can’t make. If you don’t watch her play in person, you’re really missing out on something pretty special.”
Kitija Laksa, USF’s best player and one of the best scorers in the nation, was expected to be a big threat to the Huskies’ impenetrable defense going into the game, averaging 21.6 points per game on the season to lead the American Athletic Conference. Instead, Laksa was held to a mere 3-15 shooting and mustered only seven points Tuesday night after putting up 37 points in the Bulls’ game against Tulsa last Saturday. Her poor shooting performance can be attributed, at least partially, due to the disruptive force of Williams on defense.
The absolute dominance on both ends of the court gave the Huskies a 102-37 win and 65-point margin of victory that is the best of the season for UConn and the best against a ranked opponent in program history.
“When we play like this and when we shoot the ball like that and we play defense like that, I don’t think it would’ve mattered who we were playing tonight,” Auriemma said.
Next up, the Huskies will take on the SMU Mustangs on the road for the chance to rewrite the record books and win their 91st consecutive game.