UConn women approaching another milestone

UConn guard Megan Walker, left, loses the ball after getting fouled by South Florida guard Vanessa Blagmon, center, as guard Alba Prieto (4) defends during the fourth quarter of Saturday's college women's basketball game in Tampa. UConn won 100-49. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)
UConn guard Megan Walker, left, loses the ball after getting fouled by South Florida guard Vanessa Blagmon, center, as guard Alba Prieto (4) defends during the fourth quarter of Saturday's college women's basketball game in Tampa. UConn won 100-49. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)

Since arriving at UConn, the quartet of Kia Nurse, Gabby Williams, Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson has been a part of an undefeated national championship squad and contributed to the longest winning streak in NCAA Division I women’s basketball history.

The four also have the longest road winning streak in history and recently helped coach Geno Auriemma win his 1,000th career game with the Huskies. On the verge of another magical milestone, it’s clear that if the veteran players spent time pondering their accomplishments, there wouldn’t be much time to prepare for the next opponent.

UConn, set to play its second game of the regular season at Gampel Pavilion, has won its last 99 regular-season games so a win against UCF on Tuesday (7 p.m., SNY) would make the Huskies the first NCAA Division I women’s basketball program to win 100 in a row.

“It’s what you understand because the coaching staff and people around us don’t talk about numbers like people think they do,” Nurse said. “We focus on, ‘did we have a good game? Did we win by a lot? OK, but did we play well? Maybe not, so what do we have to fix?’ That is the beauty of what we deal with.”

The last time out, the Huskies dispatched a South Florida team that was picked to finish second in the American Athletic Conference ... by 51 points. One play in particular stuck in Auriemma’s mind and that was seeing Nurse, who was dealing with a painful charley horse, diving onto the floor after a loose ball long after the game’s outcome was decided.

“You saw Kia diving on a loose ball and we were up by 30 at the time,” Auriemma said. “That is kind of what we do, we don’t play to the score.”

Auriemma’s quest is to coach the perfect game. No, not having every shot go in the basket or even to score on every possession, but to play the game the way he believes it should be played on both ends of the floor. He wants his teams to use movement to become impossible to guard and recruits players who can not only shoot but are willing passers, as well. Defensively, the goal is to take away the opponent’s first option and force the other team into the shots that Auriemma wants them to take.

Auriemma has passed on his vision to different generations of players and lets other people crunch the numbers that further illustrate the Huskies’ incredible run of dominance.

“People definitely learn that when you are here and no matter what, we are going to play the same exact way,” Samuelson said.

UConn’s 13-0 start has featured games played in Ohio, California, Oregon, Nevada, Illinois, North Carolina, Florida and even in the province of Ontario. There’s been exactly one game played at UConn’s on-campus facility and that came nearly two months ago against California.

“I love Gampel,” Nurse said. “Obviously, XL (Center) is a great place and it is home but when you can sleep in your own bed, wake up and walk to the gym and it is a great advantage to do that.

“We were talking about that earlier. It is kind of weird to think that Cal is the last time we were there, but when you are on the road you just make adjustments. When you are home you take advantage of it."

UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield pumps her fist after making a basket against South Florida during the first quarter Saturday in Tampa. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)
UConn guard Crystal Dangerfield pumps her fist after making a basket against South Florida during the first quarter Saturday in Tampa. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)
South Florida forward Maria Jespersen, back, fouls UConn guard Kia Nurse (11) during Saturday's AAC game in Tampa. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)
South Florida forward Maria Jespersen, back, fouls UConn guard Kia Nurse (11) during Saturday's AAC game in Tampa. (Chris O'Meara/AP Photo)

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