The 100’s are trying to prevent 100.
USC coach Dawn Staley’s theme for this season (“100,” representing multiple things) coincides with one of the most impressive streaks ever posted. Not just in women’s basketball, but in all of sports.
Connecticut plays USC on Monday, trying for its 100th consecutive win. It was going to be hard enough to beat the No. 1 Huskies on their home floor without anything extra. Now, UConn is trying to add to a record that’s more untouchable than Joe DiMaggio hitting in 56 consecutive games.
“I think it’s exciting for women’s basketball, exciting for our program,” Staley said. “Hopefully, it’s exciting for UConn.”
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Playing UConn always carries extra weight because of the name recognition. It’s why Staley wanted the Huskies on South Carolina’s schedule two years ago, and why she and Geno Auriemma renewed the series after last year’s game.
The Huskies didn’t invent women’s basketball, but they’ve come close to perfecting it. Auriemma’s 11th national title last spring – the most by one coach in men’s or women’s basketball – was his fourth in a row. The Huskies are so good that their biggest obstacle every year is staring down the media who decry UConn’s dominance as bad for the game.
Auriemma doesn’t sneer or chide, but he asks what he’s supposed to do. It’s not his fault and he shouldn’t have to apologize for his team being as good as it is. Like all streaks, the pundits say, it will end some day.
There appears to be no end in sight, although if UConn is to be defeated, it seems like this year is a good shot. In 99 consecutive victories (including twice over the Gamecocks, by 25 and 12 points), the Huskies have only had two single-digit wins. Both came this year (Nov. 16 at Florida State, Dec. 16 against Maryland).
The Gamecocks hope to be better. The game is at the Huskies’ barn, and yes, UConn is supremely talented.
But USC is pretty good, too. The Gamecocks’ starting five could be the five best individuals on any team in any conference. Forward A’ja Wilson, who chose USC over UConn and others, respects the Huskies, but knows Monday is just one game.
“I guess we’re pretty excited,” she said. “We’re just taking it like another game, which is what it is. I think the media’s more excited than we are.”
The Huskies’ last loss, to Stanford in 2014, pushed USC to its first No. 1 ranking in program history. The Gamecocks held it until that February, when they traveled to Storrs and were drilled 87-62.
USC was closer last year in Columbia, but UConn still comfortably won. Both games were a part of the Huskies’ current streak, which beat their own record (90) and has twice beaten UCLA’s men’s record (88).
The streak is on everyone’s mind, and it seems pre-destined that it would come about against the Huskies’ last high-profile opponent in the regular season. UConn aggressively schedules its nonconference slate because the American Athletic Conference has nobody that can challenge it (the Huskies have yet to lose a league game since joining four years ago), and the USC game has always fallen in February.
Staley knows how difficult UConn’s nonconference schedule is and is glad to be part of it. The Gamecocks want to test themselves, and there is no better test.
Although her goal is clear – she wants to win.
“I think it’s good for the game for them to get rocked a little bit,” Staley said. “Probably everybody in America’s going to be cheering for us, so hopefully they send positive vibes to Storrs.”
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UConn streak by the numbers
Some of the numbers to come out of the UConn women's 99-game winning streak. The Huskies could make it 100 in a row when they play host to South Carolina at 9 p.m. on Monday night.
Days since UConn last lost a game.
Double-digit wins during the streak.
Consecutive wins in American Athletic Conference play. UConn hasn't lost a league game since the AAC was formed in 2013.
Largest margin of victory during the streak. UConn beat No. 20 South Florida 103-37 this past month.
Win streak before UConn's last loss on Nov. 17, 2014. Add that to the current streak and UConn is 144-1.
Huskies victories by at least 30 points.
Consecutive road victories during the stretch.
Wins over top-five opponents.
Ranked teams beaten this season.
National titles won during current streak.
Who: No. 6 USC (21-2) at No. 1 UConn (24-0)
When: 9 p.m., Monday
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn.
Radio: 107.5 FM