Hartford, CT — For the past two years, the University of South Florida women’s basketball team has been one of just two programs to face the UConn Huskies three times in a season.
Their last meeting was a Husky win to the tune of 76-51 in the 2016 American Athletic Conference Championship.
Let me give it to you straight:
USF has never beat a No. 1-ranked team, but they’ve played one 14 times since the 1994 season. (Largely thanks to Connecticut.)
USF has never beat UConn, which holds a now 21-0 all-time record.
And for the past two years, the Bulls have been banished to second place in the AAC by a Husky team that’s won four straight national championships.
Oh, and tonight’s loss?
It marked the 90th-consecutive game won for head coach Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies, a feat that tied the NCAA Division I record. Their 90-45 trouncing of East Carolina on Wednesday saw the program break a tie with John Wooden’s UCLA men’s program that won 88-consecutive games in the early 1970s.
So for the past three seasons, USF has had to face one of the biggest Goliaths in the history of college sports. Moreover, for the previous three seasons, the Bulls have fallen short.
This year was touted as the year UConn’s reign would finally crumble, and many predicted a No. 22 USF team would be the one to do it.
Sophomore Kitija Laksa has played lights out for the Bulls all season. And coming off a 37-point performance against Tulsa last week which gave her the American Athletic Conference Player of the Week title, Laksa also boasts an innate ability in the paint and from beyond the arc.
She averages a league-best 21.6 points per game, ranking her ninth nationally in Division I.
The Bulls as a team have a rebounding margin of +14.2, good for fourth in the country, and average 45.6 rebounds per game.
Tonight, Laksa was held to just 7 points and 2 rebounds. USF, as a team, was held to 34 rebounds and bled dry for 20 turnovers. Moreover, to top it all off, the Huskies scored more points on the Bulls than they ever have in their past 20 meetings.
After the game, USF head coach Jose Fernandez summed it all up to the hometown radio broadcasters: “It was like the kid at the schoolyard getting their lunch money taken away. That’s what we looked like today.”
USF came into Tuesday night’s matchup riding the highs of the program’s best start in 45 seasons, with their sights set on dethroning a team that’s rewriting history.
Tonight, they leave empty-handed yet again, bearing the same promise to be better the next time.
But this begs the question: is there a team this year that can finally beat UConn?
Or is it the same smoke and mirrors narrative woven into the plight of a different underdog?