BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut-- For the tenth straight year, the NCAA Women’s Basketball Final Four will include the Connecticut Huskies.
Tonight’s 90-52 victory over the Oregon Ducks marked the 36th win of the season and the 111th consecutive win for the Huskies program.
The consistency is hard to fathom. For a writer, the adjectives to describe UConn’s play all sound redundant and trite at this point.
There are perhaps no words that describe the Huskies season, or their dismantling tournament run thus far. But when you sit back, watch, and then try to reflect and analyze each of these games, their feats only become that much more impressive.
Their Elite Eight win was no different.
It’s no secret that UConn has a flashy offense and five starters who are capable of scoring in double figures (four did tonight). But the most underrated part of their success in these last 111 games, even going back the last 20 plus years, is their defense.
In the first quarter tonight, the Huskies went on a 17-0 run and were up 23-4. They held the Ducks scoreless for five minutes. That kind of defensive efficiency is almost unthinkable in an Elite Eight game.
But what the rest of us can’t even think, UConn has the ability to go out and actually execute.
This is an Oregon team that had to defeat Temple, Duke, and Maryland in order to even face UConn. But from the opening tip, the Huskies shut the Ducks down in every possible facet of their game plan.
By halftime, UConn had taken 16 more total shots than Oregon. The Huskies also forced 17 turnovers. This, in turn, equaled offensive production as UConn was able to get out quickly in transition and score 28 of their first half 49 points off of those turnovers.
In the second half, the Duck’s offense rebounded slightly. They finished the night shooting 42 percent from the field, but the defensive groundwork that UConn laid in the first 20 minutes would be too much to overcome.
UConn shooting 55 percent from the field also made it difficult for Oregon to mount a comeback. Napheesa Collier led the Huskies with 28 points, while Gabby Williams had 25, and Saniya Chong and Kia Nurse recorded 11 apiece.
And while their defense was basically perfect, especially in the first half, what makes it so is the driving force from their head coach Geno Auriemma. No matter how seemingly perfect his team is to onlookers, Auriemma is never satisfied.
During the television broadcast in the fourth quarter, ESPN’s Holly Rowe asked why he was giving Collier an earful during their timeout. Auriemma responded by saying that she wasn’t playing defense, and he knew she could be better.
This is the same Collier who finished the evening with 28 points and recorded her 1,000th point this evening, despite only being a sophomore. The next defensive possession out, Collier held her ground and recorded her fourth block of the night.
That kind of attitude is why Auriemma is now the all-time winningest coach in NCAA men’s or women’s tournament basketball history. He passed the late Pat Summitt tonight with his 113th career win.
Auriemma expects perfection. His players, in turn, grow to expect that perfection.
That’s why UConn came out and completely undid the Ducks tonight. That’s why they are now just two wins away from their unprecedented fifth consecutive national title.
All in a days work for the Connecticut Huskies.