UConn spent seven seasons in the American Athletic Conference, and though their foes came close (albeit just once or twice), nobody could beat the best to ever do it.
The mic drop came Monday night with an 87-53 win over Cincinnati at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut Megan Walker scored 26 points with seven rebounds, and Christyn Williams had 22 points, eight rebounds and two steals. UConn outscored the Bearcats in the paint by 30.
“I would say it’s not a lot of pressure, it’s more of a pride thing,” Walker said. “We wanted to get it done for our coach, and for the players that came before us.”
Walker won the AAC tournament MVP award, averaging 21.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and making three 3-pointers in each of the three games.
“This is one of the goals that we have, to win our conference,” Williams said. “That was definitely the goal, to finish off this conference.”
Williams, along with Crystal Dangerfield and Aubrey Griffin, were selected to the All-Tournament team. Dangerfield and Griffin really showed out in the quarterfinal game against Temple, in which Dangerfield led all scorers with 22 and Griffin had a 15-point, 16-rebound double-double.
Geno Auriemma, the constant through UConn’s seven perfect years in the American, credited all of the players that he was able to coach throughout this dominant stretch.
“The obvious factor is that our players are really, really good. When you think about it, you’re not going to win these games or championships if you don’t have really good players,” Auriemma said. “We managed to do that the whole time that we’ve been in the league.”
To say that Auriemma has coached “really, really good” players is sort of an understatement. Just over seven years in the American, he coached Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, Moriah Jefferson, Stefanie Dolson, Bria Hartley, Kiah Stokes, Katie Lou Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, Gabby Williams, Kia Nurse, Dangerfield, Walker, Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and I have high hopes for freshmen Griffin and Anna Makurat. Just to think of the list of UConn legends that preceded the AAC makes the Huskies’ greatness that much more unbelievable.
“It’s not like this is the first time that it started happening. It’s not like this is a new thing for us. We were doing this 15, 20 years ago before the AAC was even thought about. It’s just part of who we are,” Auriemma said. “We don’t expect to win every game. We’re not arrogant thinking that we deserve to win every game. We just prepare to win every single game, try to be consistent and try to treat every team with the respect that they deserve.”
When UConn transitioned from the Big East to the American, Auriemma didn’t take any opponents lightly. He carried that mantra on from season to season, recruiting class to recruiting class and year after year.
“Being in a new conference, we didn’t really know what to expect from all of the teams that were going to be in the league. We just tried to approach every game the same way and tried to show up every day to practice to get ourselves prepared,” Auriemma said.
Well Geno, I think it worked. Over these last seven years, UConn beat their opponents in The American by, on average, about 40 points every game. That isn’t hyperbole; that isn’t a typo. Forty points. ~40~. Four-zero.
“Whether we’re playing Cincinnati or Baylor, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to prepare the exact same way. We’re going to do the scouting report the exact same way. We don’t change anything for any team,” Auriemma said. “Our biggest consistency is our approach, day in and day out.”
It says a lot about the culture built within the UConn women’s basketball organization that for seven straight seasons, players have gone into each game with the same preparation and mindset for the teams in The American as they do for the best teams in the country.
I know it can be easy to get too excited, or read too much into records and streaks. Be that as it may, this is a testament to the competitive nature and will to win that Auriemma and his staff have instilled into UConn’s program.
Huskies are hardworking, mentally strong and don’t take a single game for granted. That is what this 139-0 record means.