HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — UConn coach Geno Auriemma calls it a once-in-a-lifetime thing that his Huskies have now done twice.
Top-ranked UConn tied its own NCAA record with its 90th consecutive win, routing No. 20 South Florida 102-37 on Tuesday night.
“Some things you just can’t really explain; you just have to enjoy it.” Auriemma said. “We don’t set out to do these kinds of things. We don’t set out to set records, break records or keep track of records. We set out to play as hard as we can, play with as much energy as we can.”
UConn certainly did that on Tuesday.
Saniya Chong hit a 3-pointer to start a 9-0 opening run and the Huskies quickly extinguished any USF hopes for an upset. The Huskies led by 22 after the first 10 minutes. Another 3-pointer by Chong gave UConn its first 40-point lead at 53-13 with four minutes left in the second quarter.
It was 65-19 at halftime and UConn didn’t let up in the second half in matching the streak Auriemma’s program set between November 2008 and December 2010.
Chong scored 20 points to lead six players in double figures for the Huskies (15-0, 2-0 American Athletic Conference),
Maria Jespersen had 11 points for South Florida (13-2, 2-1 American Athletic Conference), which has never beaten UConn in 21 attempts.
USF coach Jose Fernandez decided before the game to try to match UConn’s transition game. But the Huskies were more than able to run with the Bulls. They outscored USF 18-5 in fast-break points and 48-14 in the paint. Chong had eight of their 31 assists, compared to just three for USF.
“That’s our style,” Fernandez said. “But when you don’t make shots, you give a team more possessions and that’s what happened.”
UConn hasn’t lost since Nov. 17, 2014, at then-No. 6 Stanford, a two-point defeat in overtime. Without that loss, the streak would be 138 games.
Four members of the current team, Chong, Gabby Williams (11 points, 13 rebounds), Kia Nurse (13 points, seven rebounds), and Tierney Lawlor, have been part of the program for all 90 wins.
“It’s just pretty cool that it’s still going,” Williams said. “Because everyone is like, it’s not going to end while we’re here. That’s kind of the mentality.”
Katie Lou Samuelson had 19 points, Nepheesa Collier had 18 and Natalie Butler added 10.
USF’s Kitija Laksa, the league’s top scorer, came in averaging 21.6 points per game. She finished with seven.
After the game, UConn stayed on the court to watch a congratulatory video made by former players as fans held up signs reading “90 and counting.”
UConn: The Huskies haven’t shied away from tough competition during their streak. Since the Stanford loss, the Huskies have beaten 27 ranked opponents, including eight this season. UConn is 238-61 against ranked opponents and 37-11 at home against the Top 25 since 2004-05.
The Huskies also matched the program’s record of 57 straight regular-season conference wins from 2008 to 2012, which is the fifth longest in Division I history. They last did it as members of the Big East. Texas holds that NCAA record at 124 straight.
South Florida: This was the seventh meeting in the past three seasons between the programs. South Florida is 64-13 over that stretch against every other opponent.
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The 65-point margin of victory was the largest for the Huskies against a ranked opponent.
Auriemma said freshman point guard Crystal Dangerfield will be held out for the next two weeks as a precaution to rest a nagging foot injury. That will mean more time for Chong, who has stepped up her game this season after an inconsistent career at UConn.
“I can’t get back the last three years, so I’m trying to do the best I can this year and go out with a bang,” she said.
The Huskies have four of the top five winning streaks in Division I history. That includes streaks of 70 games (2001-03) of 47 (2013-15), 35 (1994-96), and 33 games (1996-97).
UConn: The Huskies will go for 91 straight wins in Dallas on Saturday against SMU. The Huskies don’t face another ranked opponent until Feb. 13, when No. 6 South Carolina will visit Gampel Pavilion.
South Florida: The Bulls head back to Florida for a three-game homestand, starting Saturday against East Carolina.
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