UConn women hit the century mark with 66-55 win over No. 6 South Carolina

Storrs — Someday, UConn's mind-boggling, record-setting unbeaten streak will die.

It can't go on forever.

Right now, there's no end in sight.

Another nationally-ranked opponent took a swing at knocking off the top-ranked Huskies.

UConn never buckled, beating No. 6 South Carolina, 66-55, at Gampel Pavilion for its historic 100th straight victory.

The Huskies (25-0) overcame some rough offensive stretches and foul trouble with gritty defense and pure heart and hustle.

"They probably feel better about it than maybe last year's team would have — a big win like this against a really good team in an amazing environment," coach Geno Auriemma said. "We had to do it under somewhat difficult circumstances. ... Somehow or another, we figured out a way to do it."

"... Sometimes, it's just meant to be. ... I thought it was going to be a really, really difficult game for us to win under the best of circumstances."

Junior Gabby Williams powered the Huskies, scoring a career-high 26 points and adding a team-best 14 rebounds for her ninth double-double this season. Sophomore Napheesa Collier contributed 18 points and nine rebounds.

"I can't even, I mean, this crowd, this energy, this program is something special," Williams said. "And I'm so happy to be here."

Auriemma is running out of words to describe Williams' play.

"She's an extraordinary athlete who understands what she is and then tries to live up to it," Auriemma said. "And not everybody does. ... There's no one else like her in all of college basketball."

It was far from the usual UConn demolition job. The Huskies seized the lead for good with about a minute to go in the second quarter but didn't start to take control until late in the third.

Clinging to a 40-37 lead, the Huskies cranked up the pace and attacked before the Gamecocks could set up on defense. An active Williams scored consecutive baskets to spark an 11-2 run that handed the Huskies their first double digit lead.

Collier finished off the key spurt with five straight points. She was fouled while converting a fast break layup and then drained the free throw for a 51-39 edge with 4.3 seconds left in the third quarter.

With a raucous crowd on their side, the Huskies never let up until the final buzzer, leading by as many as 16.

It was an entertaining, fiercely competitive game from the start.

The Huskies grabbed a 35-29 halftime lead with an 11-2 spurt. Williams (16) and Collier (13) combined for 29 points.

UConn buckled down on defense after falling behind 27-24 in the second quarter, forcing turnovers in the last three trips before intermission. Collier's 3-pointer put the Huskies ahead for good, 31-29. They scored 15 points off nine turnovers.

Standout forward A'ja Wilson kept South Carolina close for awhile, as she powered inside for 12 points. But she had only five in the  second half against a swarming defense.

But, ultimately, South Carolina (21-3) couldn't match UConn's intensity and speed, or contain Williams, who was nearly unstoppable at times. The Gamecocks finished with 17 turnovers and  shot just 35.1 percent.

The Huskies improved to 147-1 in the last 148 games, with their only loss coming to nationally-ranked Stanford in mid-November of 2014. The winning streak started after that defeat.

Monday was a celebration of not only the crazy-long streak but also the program's brilliance. The ESPN networks ran a gamut of coverage throughout the day, from re-airing some of the best games to bringing its Big Monday studio crew to Gampel.

A sold-out Gampel crowd was in big-game mode. Shirtless male students had "100 & counting" painted on their bodies. Maya Moore, Breanna Stewart, Tina Charles, Sue Bird and Morgan Tuck were among the former Huskies in attendance.

As impressive as the duration of the streak has been UConn's dominance.

Entering Monday's game, the Huskies posted an average margin of victory of an astounding 38.7 points in the 99 wins. They've won every game by double digits with the exception of two, both this season against nationally-ranked teams — 78-76 in season opener at Florida State on Nov. 14 and 87-81 at Maryland on Dec. 29.

And they've done far more than just beat up on over-matched American Athletic Conference opponents, taking down 27 ranked teams — make that 28 now — including nine top five foes.

The Gamecocks came in with a strong resume, going 6-0 against ranked teams this season with three of those victories on the road. But they couldn't keep up with the Huskies.

None of UConn's final four regular season opponents are expected to provide a major challenge. So it may not be until deep into the NCAA tournament before the Huskies will be in jeopardy of losing.

Who knew when UConn routed Creighton, 96-60, in Storrs on Nov. 23, 2014, it would start a remarkable streak that is still rolling along.

g.keefe@theday.com

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