HARTFORD — At the beginning of this season, the UConn women’s basketball team’s 75-game winning streak was an afterthought for head coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies. With so many young players being relied on to replace stars Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson and brutal non-conference schedule, extending the streak anywhere near the all-time record of 90 straight seemed improbable at best.
But on Tuesday night, the improbable became reality, and history was made once again as the Huskies rolled past No. 20 USF 102-37, tying the all-time record of 90-straight wins they set seven years ago with their largest margin of victory ever over a ranked opponent.
“We played like a team that was tonight anyway on a mission to do something that was really important to them,” Auriemma said. “It’s always nice when you’re home and the home crowd is involved.”
The streak now spans more than 780 days, three national championships and nine victories over opponents nationally ranked in the top five. Winning 90 games in a row is unbelievable, but doing it twice is unprecedented. Somehow, the Huskies have done just that.
“Anytime you do something that’s never been done before, and you do something that’s going to be in the history books, then you feel like very, very few people have ever been in this situation. Who knows if anybody will ever be in this position again,” Auriemma said. “For us to be in this moment twice is hard to describe.”
Saniya Chong – one of the three Huskies to be on the team for the duration of the win streak – fittingly led all scorers with 20 points, tying her career-high that she initially set in the Huskies’ loss to Stanford on Nov. 17, 2014. While the 89 games in between Chong’s 20-point performances have been up and down for the senior guard, UConn has continued to win and win with ease.
“She worked really, really hard at both ends of the floor, and you could tell that she was in a good place where she expected good things to happen,” Auriemma said of Chong. “Tonight was a really, really good game for her.”
Chong echoed Auriemma’s comments, beaming with pride about not only her offensive performance, but her defense as well. Aside from stout defense and great shooting, Chong added eight assists and three rebounds.
“I would say it was,” Chong said when asked if it was her best game as a Husky. “I’m most happy with my defense… I was put on [Kitija Laksa] today and stopped her from scoring.”
Much like they have in the other 89 victories, UConn got out a head early and never looked back, seemingly scoring at will and leading USF 30-6 after the first quarter. From there on out, the Huskies kept piling it on, leading by as much as 67 points with three minutes to play before the buzzer sounded on the 65-point win, tying the Huskies’ 96-31 win over Cincinnati in 2015 for the largest margin of victory during the streak.
“We played an amazing game of basketball, the kind of game that coaches aspire for their players to play. It was just at both ends of the floor, there was just a lot of stuff going on there today that you just have to shake your head at,” Auriemma said. “That’s what I’m happy about and that’s why I’m smiling. It has nothing to do with 90, I could care less about that.”
While the wins have looked easy at times, the road to a second-straight streak of 90 wins has come against some of the best competition women’s basketball has to offer. With Tuesday night’s win over the Bulls, UConn has defeated 27 ranked opponents during the course of its streak, with UConn winning just two games – this year’s 78-76 road win over No. 12 Florida State and an 87-81 road win over No. 4 Maryland – by less than 10 points. That type of sustained success and dominance is what impresses Auriemma and his team more than anything else.
“I think it’s just our discipline, and that for 90 games we haven’t taken a break,” Junior Gabby Williams said. “Every game we come in with a plan, we come in focused and we want to give everybody a show.”
UConn will have a chance to break the record Jan. 14 on the road against SMU. If the Huskies win, UConn will have eight more American Athletic Conference games before their final non-conference matchup of the season at home against No. 2 South Carolina. The Huskies have not lost a game in the American since joining four years ago, and if that trend continues, would put UConn in position for a shot at their 100th-straight victory against the Gamecocks on Feb. 13. If the Huskies play like they did against the Bulls, it will be hard to pencil in an end date to this streak.
“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 played tonight,” Auriemma said.