UConn women’s effort hasn’t wavered through 90 straight wins

UConn head coach Geno Auriemma poses with his team for a photograph at the end of an NCAA college basketball game against South Florida, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017, in Hartford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
AP Photo/Jessica Hill

Connecticut won its 900th straight game Tuesday night in Hartford. The top-ranked Huskies beat No. 22 South Florida, 1002-37.

Oops! Sorry. Those were typos. That should have read 90th straight game by the score of 102-37.

It only seemed like the Huskies’ 900th win in a row and that they scored 1,002 points on a Top 25 team they defeated by 65.

This is not a typo, either: The crowd count at the XL Center down the road from the Storrs campus was 10,109. Many of them were waving blue signs that read, “90 and counting.” The victory tied the Huskies’ own NCAA record of 90 wins set between 2008 and 2011. UConn (15-0, 3-0 AAC) can — and almost certainly will — break its record against unranked SMU (10-5, 1-1 AAC) Saturday in Dallas.

Connecticut hasn’t lost since Stanford beat the Huskies in overtime, 88-86, on Nov. 17, 2014. That means UConn has won 137 of its last 138 games.

You might be bored with UConn’s dominance, but the Huskies aren’t. They play defense each night like it’s the national championship game.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma, whose teams have won 11 national titles and each of the last four, shook his head in awe during one of those otherwise mundane courtside interviews. Keep in mind Auriemma is about as easy to impress as grouchy Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

“We really played at a whole another level,” Auriemma said. “It wouldn’t have mattered if it was South Florida or anybody else with the energy we played defensively. It was fun for me to watch.”

In UConn’s last 458 games, Notre Dame is the only team to shoot over 50 percent. South Florida shot 23.1 percent (15 of 65). That also wasn’t a typo: It’s been 458 games other than Notre Dame beating UConn 72-63 in a Final Four semifinal on April 3, 2011. Notre Dame shot 51.9 percent to end UConn’s streak of holding teams under 50 percent at 263 games.

With a rout underway against USF, the Huskies played defense rather than looking to pad their scoring averages. Defense has as much to do with their national titles and streaks as offensive talent.

UConn junior forward Gabby Williams finished with 11 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 blocked shots and 3 steals.

“If you haven’t seen Gabby Williams play basketball in person then you have no clue what she brings,” Auriemma said in the postgame media session. “She is the Lawrence Taylor of women’s basketball. Whatever play you are trying to run is not going to happen.”

I know most men will never accept women’s basketball as athletic enough to interest them compared to the men’s game, but consider the defensive intensity with which the UConn women play each night.

One element I appreciate is women’s basketball doesn’t suffer from the entitlement that plagues the men’s game. AAU basketball leagues and overvalued recruiting service rankings fuel entitled attitudes.

We all know entitled men sometimes merely show up in their games. When North Carolina State coach Mark Gottfried’s team doesn’t play defense, he calls it wearing their “cool jackets.” North Carolina coach Roy Williams likes to say after a poor game he shouldn’t have to coach “effort.”

The late great UCLA coach John Wooden, whose 10 NCAA titles Auriemma topped last year with his 11th, said in his later years he appreciated the women’s game for ball movement compared to the “look at me” one-on-one isolation of the men.

The above opinions from three coaches aren’t offered with the expectation of swaying your opinion if you’re no fan of the women’s game – it’s just to ask you to respect what UConn’s women are compiling.

We’re watching history not likely to be topped once somebody finally knocks of UConn. That is, if someone beats the Huskies.

Follow Tom Shanahan of FanRagSports.com on Twitter @shanny4055.

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