UConn puts finishing touches on undefeated regular season
Napheesa Collier matching Svetlana Abrosimova and Kerry Bascom for the fourth most points in UConn history with a 39-point masterpiece and doing it with just 15 official field-goal attempts.
Katie Lou Samuelson becoming the 44th Husky to score 1,000 career points and doing it faster in terms of games played than all but six players in program history while moving into a tie for the sixth most 3-pointers made in a season at UConn.
Gabby Williams flirted with a triple-double again and Crystal Dangerfield finishing with nine assists and no turnovers. When I get home I will start looking at the UConn players who have handed out the most assists without any turnovers. My hope was to get a little additional insight into Dangerfield's game by interviewing her high school teammate Jazz Bond, a freshman at USF who did not play but I was told that she would not be available for interview after the game.
Did I miss anything? Oh that's right, UConn put the finishing touches on the ninth undefeated regular season in program history but first when the Huskies weren't returning at least one player selected to either the WBCA or Associated Press All-American teams in the previous season.
The Huskies faced the teams picked to finish second (Temple), third (South Florida) and fourth (Tulane) in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll without the services of preseason conference player of the year Kia Nurse (who could return when UConn meets either Tulsa or Memphis in the AAC quarterfinals on Saturday).
Even Geno Auriemma, the winningest coach in terms of winning percentage in NCAA Division I women's basketball history who has engineered more winning streaks than could possibly ever be listed here or anywhere else took time to appreciate what this team has done.
"Going in I never thought we'd be able to get through that early part of the schedule with a group of players that had not been tested in that manner before," Auriemma said. "I didn't know how they would respond. Who would say what might have happened if we had lost that Florida State game and maybe lost the Baylor game and maybe started the season 0-2, everything might have gone completely sideways. There wasn't one player that everybody in the locker room was going, 'OK, this kid has to carry us tonight.' I think there some comfort in that and, 'hey, we are all in this together, we all have to do our part.' There were games when some individuals just took it upon themselves to do more. These guys are good players but I did not know how quickly they would come together, whether they would be able to hang in there for an entire season. It might look easy but it is not easy to do what these kids have done."
This marks the ninth time UConn enters postseason undefeated and 13th time the Huskies won every regular season game in conference play.
"It is hard to fathom," Auriemma said. "It is hard to imagine and I am in the middle of it. I think back to to what happened and it is almost like somebody else did it. Naw, that's not true. It is really hard. Last night we all went out to dinner, our coaching staff and it was probably the first time we were all together and we could go, 'man, you know what is going on here. It is the first time that we admitted to ourselves that is what we were doing, before it was the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. When you finally sit back and go I don't believe it. If somebody said go back and do it again I was say you are out of your mind."
Those in attendance at the Sun Dome might have believed that the accomplishment came and went with little reaction from UConn. However, Auriemma made sure his players knew that he appreciated what they have accomplished - so far.
"If you are not careful, you don't celebrate things along the way because you have your eye on that one thing that is at the end of the season," Auriemma said. "If you are not careful, the only thing that matters is winning a national championship so all this great stuff that happens along the way, if you are not careful it gets brushed under the rug. Ho hum, ho hum it is just Connecticut winning games again The streak (104-game) it is not for us to jump and down about. Everybody got excited about it but we just finished the regular season undefeated and it is not a big story because it has been done so many times. I think at this point you hate to say it, all that we have done this season it is all going to be determined what happens the next four weekends."
The first of those weekends will be the American Athletic Conference tournament.
UConn received a first-round bye and will play either Tulsa or Memphis in the quarterfinals on Saturday at a listed time of 2 p.m. but it is likely to be closer to 2:30 p.m. as it will start about 30 minutes after the game between UCF and Tulane.
"We can look at it for about two days and be happy with what we accomplished but as soon as we practice on Thursday, we are going to be focused because there is so much more that we want to do as a team," Samuelson said. "We are just kind of getting to where we are looking (to be). This season has been great so far and we had our ups and downs but we are at a good place right now."
Here is the American Athletic Conference tournament bracket with all the games being played at Mohegan Sun Arena and as I mentioned before, UConn's quarterfinal game will not be televised but is being streamed on ESPN3.
No. 9 Tulsa vs. No. 8 Memphis, 4 p.m. (ESPN3)
No. 10 Houston vs. No. 7 Cincinnati, 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
No. 11 East Carolina vs. No. 6 SMU, 8 p.m. (ESPN3)
No. 5 Tulane vs. No. 4 UCF, noon (ESPN3)
Memphis/Tulsa winner vs. No. 1 UConn, 2 p.m. (ESPN3)
Houston/Cincinnati winner vs. No. 2 Temple 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
SMU/East Carolina winner vs. No. 3 USF, 8 p.m. (ESPN3)
Saturday afternoon winners, 5 p.m.(ESPN2)
Saturday evening winners, 7:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.(ESPN2)