On Thursday night, the top-ranked UConn women’s basketball team beat fourth-ranked Maryland 87-81 to improve to 12-0 on the season.
To most, the result is just UConn doing UConn things. After all, the Huskies have won the last four national championships and this win was their 87th in a row. That’s the third-longest winning streak in college basketball history, men’s or women’s.
But to some, this is a bit of a surprise. UConn’s top three players from last year’s team went 1-2-3 in the WNBA Draft, including No. 1 overall Breanna Stewart, the three-time winner of the Naismith Award as the top player in the country. This season was supposed to be a little more challenging and the Huskies opened the year ranked No. 3.
But maybe nobody is more surprised than the one person closest to the team, head coach Geno Auriemma. In fact, Auriemma loaded UConn’s early-season schedule with a bunch of tough opponents because he wanted to teach his young team that things aren’t always as easy as his previous teams made it look.
That lesson has seemingly backfired.
“I’m probably the most surprised person in the country,” Auriemma said after Thursday’s game. “I set the schedule up so that [starting 12-0] wouldn’t happen, and it has happened. I’m flabbergasted to a certain extent.”
That’s right. Auriemma wanted his team to lose some early games, and they just keep winning anyway.
In addition to beating No. 4 Maryland on Thursday, UConn has also beaten No. 2 Notre Dame by 11, No. 3 Baylor by 11, No. 7 Florida State by two, No. 14 Ohio State by 19, and No. 16 Texas by 18. That is as brutal of a 12-game stretch as you will ever see and this young UConn team won them all.
While the Huskies may not have faced the adversity Auriemma was hoping for, they do have something else that may be more important, but also something Coach Geno was trying to avoid: a whole lot of confidence.
“Every time I keep doubting them, every time I keep saying to them, ‘alright, it’s coming, it’s coming’ they just look at me and go (sarcastically), ‘yeah, OK,'” Auriemma said. “So, they know something I don’t know, I guess.”
UConn can break the all-time record for consecutive wins by a college basketball team — 90, by UConn, of course — if they win their next four games. As tough as the first 12 games have been, things actually get a little easier now. Only one of those opponents is currently ranked (No. 23 South Florida) and according to ESPN, UConn is 36-0 all time versus those four teams combined (Central Florida, East Carolina, South Florida, Southern Methodist).