By Jared Anderson
Hartford, CT — As the hopeful No. 22 ranked South Florida Bulls entered the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut Tuesday night; the No.1 ranked UConn Huskies stood on the opposite end of the hardwood, determined to carve their name into the history books.
See, this wasn’t just any American Conference game. This was a battle between two of the nation’s elite, in what would result in either a devastating upset, or a historic victory.
The UConn Huskies were seeking their 90th consecutive win, a win that would produce the largest win streak in NCAA history, surpassing their own Division-1 record of 89-consecutive victories. UConn’s 20-0 all-time record against South Florida provided the team with a piece of mind, but also a relentless performance.
As the match fell underway, UConn’s top-tier talent was unleashed. The Huskies rapidly picked up a slew of baskets, and with just seven minutes and fifteen seconds remaining in the first, manufactured a 9-0 run.
Suddenly, South Florida’s hopes and aspirations came to a standstill.
As the game continued, so did UConn’s dominance.
The Huskies flourished in the first period, scoring 30 points while holding the Bulls to a season-low, 6 points.
“That’s as good of 20 minutes of basketball that any of them have ever been a part of,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
UConn continued their outstanding play behind forward Katie Lou Samuelson, and guard, Saniya Chong. The two were unstoppable, as they led the Huskies to a 67 percent field goal percentage at the half. While UConn thrived, South Florida struggled to get things going offensively, entering halftime down, 65-19, on 9-of-34 shooting.
It was now clear that this wasn’t just any No. 1 ranked team. This was a UConn Huskies team who had won eleven National Championships, four of them consecutively. This was a team who had not only stood on top of Women’s College Basketball for years, but had crafted a dynasty. Led by Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma, this organization knew how to do one thing, and one thing only: win.
UConn continued to form what was expected to be an intriguing matchup, into a blowout.
South Florida struggled on both ends of the floor as they were held to just 26 points after the third, with their highest-scoring player contributing just 9 points.
The fourth quarter was the same song for South Florida, as the deficit continued to increase.
UConn would go on to pick up the milestone victory, defeating No. 22 South Florida, 102-37.
This win provided deep meaning to a group of elite UConn players.
“Anytime that you get to be a part of a history book, it’s special,” junior guard Kia Nurse said. “Not a lot of people get to do that in their lifetime.”
As if there wasn’t enough significance to the win, this was the largest margin of victory in UConn’s school history against a ranked opponent. Connecticut’s victory was fueled by a collective effort, as six players scored ten-or-more points on the night.
Chong capped off the evening with a 20-point, 8-assist performance, while forward Gabby Williams, was a sizeable threat in the paint. Williams grabbed thirteen rebounds and scored 11 points, generating a double-double.
“[Williams] just makes plays that the average basketball player can’t make,” Auriemma said. “If you don’t watch her play in person, you’re really missing out on something pretty special.”
The bottom of the net was no stranger to the Huskies, as they connected on forty-one of their sixty-eight shot attempts, shooting 60 percent from the field.
Maria Jespersen was the only South Florida player to score double figures on the night. She scored 11 points on 5-of-18 shooting, while the Bulls shot 23 percent as a team. Turnovers plagued South Florida, as they turned the ball over twenty times, compared to UConn’s nine.
“This is how we’re going to play, and you’re going to have to play great to beat us,” Auriemma said.
As the buzzer sounded, a sea of blue and white was formed. Signs with the number “90” were raised by fans around the stadium, signifying the Huskie’s record-breaking win. While the team exited the court, one thought resonated in the minds of UConn fans: Greatness.