It was working. The system was working.
But Connecticut disrupted a lot of systems in winning 99 consecutive games, and did it again in defeating No. 6 South Carolina for its 100th.
The Huskies (25-0) beat the Gamecocks 66-55 on Monday to extend their record for consecutive victories and let USC know that stopping them is a temporary solution.
They didn’t win 100 in a row (including three games over USC, and four national championships) by not knowing how to adjust when things aren’t going their way.
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That’s exactly what they did when the Gamecocks were successfully running their slowdown offense.
“For 18 minutes in the first half, I thought it favored our gameplan,” USC coach Dawn Staley said. “Then we had those turnovers and they turned into uncontested layups and really, it deflated us.”
UConn switched its man and zone defenses and took advantage of four turnovers with less than two minutes to go in the second quarter, removing a one-point deficit with seven straight points. The last, a Bianca Cuevas-Moore pass turned into a Napheesa Collier steal-and-score, gave UConn the halftime momentum and all the room it needed.
“We just had too many empty possessions where we got great looks but we just didn’t come up with them, and where we’re taking those shots from the floor led to some easy transition baskets for them,” Staley said.
Offensive rebounds and points off turnovers stretched the lead as USC never got a steady stream of points and stops. The Gamecocks were 11-of-23 in the first half and 9-of-34 in the second.
The Gamecocks (21-3) did many good things. A’ja Wilson fought through constant double-teams, scoring 17. Ty Harris played a strong directorial game in a tough environment. Their approach of playing keep-away until a shot opened was working, and Allisha Gray’s defense on star Katie Lou Samuelson resulted in a 2-for-12 night from the floor, with six points.
But UConn isn’t dependent on one player. Samuelson wasn’t scoring, so Collier and Gabby Williams did. The two combined for 44 points.
USC’s other small mistakes mounted until UConn turned a four-point lead into 12 at the end of the third. The Gamecocks handed the Huskies 17 turnovers and 19 points.
“Those are the possessions we need to come up with,” Wilson said. “It all has to come together, each quarter, each possession. Against UConn, against anyone, we just can’t have empty possessions.”
The Gamecocks host Vanderbilt on Thursday. They remain tied for first place in the SEC with four games to play. USC is attempting to become the second program in league history to win four consecutive regular-season championships.
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South Carolina (21-3)—Wilson 5-12 7-8 17, Coates 4-6 2-4 10, Davis 1-10 0-0 3, Gray 3-7 0-2 7, Harris 3-11 0-0 7, Herbert Harrigan 0-3 0-0 0, Cliney 0-0 0-0 0, Cuevas-Moore 4-8 0-0 11, Totals 20-57 9-14 55.
UConn (25-0)—Collier 8-16 1-1 18, Samuelson 2-12 2-2 6, Williams 10-19 6-6 26, Chong 2-5 1-1 6, Nurse 1-3 0-0 3, Butler 1-1 0-0 2, Dangerfield 2-7 0-0 5, Totals 26-63 10-10 66.
3-Point Goals—South Carolina 6-21 (Davis 1-6, Gray 1-3, Harris 1-8, Cuevas-Moore 3-4), UConn 4-17 (Collier 1-4, Samuelson 0-5, Williams 0-1, Chong 1-3, Nurse 1-2, Dangerfield 1-2). Assists—South Carolina 11 (Coates 4), UConn 20 (Dangerfield 7). Fouled Out—UConn Collier. Rebounds—South Carolina 36 (Coates 15), UConn 38 (Williams 14). Total Fouls—South Carolina 18, UConn 17. A—10,167.
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