STORRS, Conn. (AP) — Add 100 consecutive wins to the UConn Huskies’ long list of milestones.
Given UConn’s glitzier numbers linked to national championships, 11 titles and counting, it may seem ho-hum with no added significance. Geno Auriemma’s squad already owns the longest winning streak in Division I college basketball history. UConn beat its own record of 90 consecutive wins earlier this season with little fanfare.
“I hope we can focus on the season and what’s coming up next and whatever’s in store for this team,” Auriemma said. “Let’s get it over with and move onto the next thing which is more important in the big scheme of things for these players anyway. This 100-win streak isn’t theirs, but if they win a national championship — that’s all theirs.
“That means a lot more if we’re able to do that down the road.”
Getting No. 100 was a little tougher than many of the previous 99, which UConn won by an average 38.7 points. Gabby Williams scored a career-high 26 points and Napheesa Collier added 18 to help the top-ranked Huskies beat No. 6 South Carolina 66-55 on Monday night in front of a sellout crowd of 10,167 that included past greats Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Tina Charles and Breanna Stewart, who helped the Huskies to the first 75 wins of this streak.
“They carried the torch across the finish line to 100,” Auriemma said. “If it’s a relay, they took the last baton to 100. If we win a national championship, it’s all theirs. I want to focus on trying to do that instead of worrying about the other stuff.”
The current group of Huskies (25-0) had to work for this win. South Carolina (21-3) used its stellar interior game of A’ja Wilson and Alaina Coates to take a 29-28 advantage late in the first half. The Huskies responded scoring the final seven points before the break. Collier and Williams had all of them, including a steal and layup by Collier with 3 seconds left that made it 35-29.
“They are opportunistic,” South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. “They wait for you to make the mistakes and don’t foul a whole lot. … You have to execute it for 40 minutes, if you don’t they’ll make you pay.”
South Carolina cut its deficit to 40-37 midway through the third quarter, but Williams had consecutive layups to start an 11-2 run to close the period and basically seal the win.
“We just tried to stay poised and keep our composure, and just be more confident than the other team,” Williams said.
After the game ended, fake hundred dollar bills dropped from the roof of the arena with Auriemma’s face on them. The student section spelled out 100.
Auriemma never thought his team would come close to reaching the century mark, let alone break the previous record set by the Huskies from 2008-10. The Hall of Fame coach set up the most difficult non-conference schedule in the country, playing five of the top eight teams in the AP before Monday, including road games at No. 2 Maryland, No. 4 Florida State and No. 7 Notre Dame.
UConn came away victorious in each one.
“There were a lot of wins up in the stands tonight and a lot of championships,” Auriemma said. “If this would have been done by last year’s team, I think it would have been less heroic. … For this team to do it, given where we started and where people projected us to be, given who we had coming back and given who everybody else had coming back, for them to do it I think is very appropriate.”
The game against the Gamecocks may be the Huskies’ last challenge before the NCAA Tournament. They are 75-0 in the American Athletic Conference since joining in 2013.
Considering they most likely won’t leave the state of Connecticut until the Final Four in Dallas with the first two rounds on campus and then a regional in Bridgeport, the streak may not end anytime soon.