By Carl Adamec
Don’t ask the freshmen on the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team about the last time the Huskies lost back-to-back games.
Don’t ask the sophomores either.
It’s not their fault. It’s just the last time that UConn lost consecutive games on March 7 and 17, 1993, they weren’t born yet.
With its 101-41 rout of Colgate at the XL Center in Hartford Wednesday night now in the books, second-ranked UConn’s run without back-to-back losses under Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma will reach another plateau. Monday’s game against No. 11 Maryland in the Jimmy V Classic at the XL Center will be the 700th the Huskies have played since they lost two straight.
“That goes to show what kind of dynasty Coach and CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey) have built,” UConn fifth-year senior Caroline Doty said. “To play under a coaching staff that has such high standards that they don’t allow you to lose back-to-back games … I mean, 700 is a lot of games. How many coaches even coach 700 games? For that to happen is something special and you commend the coaches for the consistency that they insist on. And they recruit players that won’t accept losing.
“My sophomore year (2010) we chased perfection to get to excellence and that’s a theme between the coaches and players. I think we have a great understanding of it. We take it personally.”
The Huskies are 648-51 since losing to host Providence in the Big East Tournament semifinals and to Louisville at Gampel Pavilion in the NCAA Tournament first round in 1993.
The 1993 team’s lone senior, Kathy Ferrier, is now in her early 40s. Bill Clinton was two months into his first term as President of the United States. No one had heard of a blog. And, yes, more than half of the current Huskies — 6 out of 11 — weren’t born yet.
“That says a lot about this program,” UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “The program has a lot of history and Coach knows what to instill in his players. It says a lot about how much they focus on maturity and the mentality of their players. It’s the same approach whether it’s a No. 1 versus No. 2 game or us against a Division II team. Whatever the game, they expect us to approach it the same.
“That’s a really good statistic. Are a lot of people going to focus on it? Probably not. But as long as you’re talking about it, it speaks a lot about what Coach has done.”
The closest call came early in the 2004-05 season. After a loss at North Carolina, the Huskies were forced to overtime by South Florida on Dec. 1, 2004, but shut out the Bulls in the extra session for a 75-65 win. Another close call came in 1999 when after a loss at Boston College on Jan. 23, UConn needed a late rally to win at Rutgers 56-55 four days later.
The second longest current streak without back-to-back losses is Duke’s 170. The Blue Devils last lost consecutive games to UConn, Vanderbilt, and Penn State from Nov. 25 to Dec. 2 of 2007.
Or take this perspective. The longest streak eight-time national champion Tennessee has had without consecutive losses is 230 (1999-2006).
How do you go so long without losing two in a row?
“I don’t know how to answer that,” Auriemma said. “I think we prepare the same for every team. We take it seriously. Our coaches do a great job with their scouting reports. We don’t take losing really well. When we do lose we come back with a mindset that’s different. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We don’t wallow in it. We go back to work. And it helps to have really good players.
“It’s hard but it’s part of what we have to teach. You only get X number of games in college. You only get X number of opportunities to play this game. If you’re going to decide you’re only going to play well against certain teams and not show up for others, you’re cheating the game, you’re cheating yourself, and you’re cheating the program. We don’t put up with that.”
With seven national championships, 13 Final Four appearances, 19 straight years (1994-2012) with either a Big East regular season or tournament title, 24 consecutive NCAA Tournament bids (1989-2012), and winning streaks of 90 and 70 games, the Huskies have done some amazing things in Auriemma’s 28-year career that now has him with a record of 810-129.
Does this run without back-to-back losses rank?
“Some of this stuff is mind boggling,” Auriemma said. “This one is under utilized or undervalued. Very few people talk about it. I don’t give it a second thought until someone mentions it. Then it’s like, ‘Oh my God.’ When it’s over and I look back, I’m going to be amazed by some of the things we’ve done here.”