Make it 90. Huskies destroy USF, 102-37.
HARTFORD: Streak. What streak?
University of Connecticut woman’s head basketball coach Geno Auriemma is on record as saying he is not a big fan of the consecutive win stuff, despite now owning the only two 90-game win streaks.
What he is more a fan of was of how his team played in a 102-37 dismantling of a University of South Florida team that came in ranked #20 in the nation and went home needing a program concussion protocol after 40 minutes of agony.
The first twenty minutes on Tuesday night before a crowd of 10,109 reminded fans of days when this was a regular occurrence when the Big Three (Stewie, Tuck and Jefferson) steamrolled opponents on a regular basis on their way to four consecutive National Championships.
The Huskies jumped all over the Bulls in the first 10-minutes to a 30-6 lead, something that befuddled the head coach.
“I sat there that first quarter,” Auriemma said. “And I really didn’t know what to say. Usually I’m prepared for stuff, I can see it coming. We went over stuff in shout around today that they didn’t even know why we were going over it cause I’m thinking, alright, there’s going to be some dicey moments in this game where I’m going to want them to know that when we run this, that’s what I want. So I came into this one thinking that it was not just going to be one of those roll the balls out there kind of games. That first quarter, I was speechless. I really didn’t know what to say.”
Saniya Chong (20 points, 8 assists) began the onslaught with a three, one of four she would connect on for the game. It was 9-0 when Bulls head coach Jose Fernandez tried to stop the bleeding with a time out but it was like putting a band aid on a gushing wound.
Everything the Huskies did worked, even when it looked like it had no business doing so like on a play that featured a somewhat errant pass from Chong to Katie Lou Samuelson (19 points) who made an awkward save by tipping it to Gabby Williams who tucked in the layup.
Speaking of Williams, the junior forward was a human highlight reel at times on the way to an 11 point, 13 rebound, four blocked shots and seven assist night.
Her ability to rise far above the rim was only matched by her haunting defense, part of what gets her rave revues from her coach.
“If you haven’t seen Gabby Williams play basketball in person,” Auriemma said. “Then you have no idea what she’s like and what she brings. I went in the locker room at the halftime and I was talking to our video guy and going over some stuff and I said, you know that Gabby Williams is the Lawrence Taylor of woman’s basketball. Whatever play you’re trying to run, it’s not going to happen and we switch a lot with her, you know so one minute she’s guarding you and you think and the other guys are like I’m glad they’re not guarding me. Then two sequences later, she is guarding you and she is just so disruptive and creates so much in so many ways. Whether it’s a deflection or a steal, whether it’s a couple of the blocks she had or whether it’s a defensive rebound. She just makes plays that the average basketball player can’t make. If you don’t watch her in person, you are missing something special.”
In pure UConn hustle fashion, Williams, with her team up 80-24 in the third quarter, dove after a loose ball, saved it to a teammate as she went crashing into the USF bench.
“There’s no point in me being on the floor if I just let that loose ball get away,” Williams said. “Why am I playing right now? That’s just part of the mentality that we are taught out here. While you’re on the court, when you have your minutes, you better do something with them.”
How far Williams has come since her freshman year when the only thing she was consistent at was being inconsistent.
UConn shot an astounding 66.7 percent in the first half on their way to a 65-19 lead.
They had 21 assists on 26 baskets. They committed just one foul, one, in the entire first half and the Bulls didn’t go to the free throw line until the fourth quarter, another trait of a great UConn team.
USF remember, came in ranked #20 and had a 13-1 record, averaging 79 points per game through 14 games.
While the Huskies don’t have the Big Three Banymore, the Core Four (Kia Nurse, Williams, Samuelson and Naphessa Collier) have become something of a force themselves, even as they learn how to play together. Why is that?
“I think a big part of it might be that there isn’t a feeling amongst the four of them,” Auriemma said. “That one of them is responsible for it. So I don’t think any of them feel the pressure or the burden of “I have to do this every night. Now, having said that, I think all four of them know that individually and collectively, that we need them to be at their best. None of them has to be super-human, none of them have to get thirty five points on any given night. They just have to do their part and be who they are. They kind of embraced that so all four of them play off each other. They all help each other and they all know that they’ve got each other’s back and if one of them happens to have a bad night, somebody else will pick them up. So far, it’s been fun to watch.”
The Huskies can break their own record if they beat SMU on Saturday on the road and go to 91 in a row.
Coming into the 2016/2017 campaign, most thought there was little chance the Huskies would get to the 90 straight mark, heck most predicted two or three losses by now, even the head coach.
As they stand here now though, On January 10, 2017, the season record is 15-0, 3-0 in the all but tired of getting beat up American Athletic Conference.
How is it happening?
Auriemma sometimes scratches his head wondering just that.
“I don’t know,” Auriemma said. “There’s something going on, I don’t know how long we can keep fooling them, but we are. So far so good.”
If this is UConn fooling them, lord help the rest of the country when they are not.