UConn women run gauntlet of ranked teams in December
STORRS, Conn. (AP) Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma didn't expect his young Huskies to be undefeated six games into the season and says he has no idea what to expect this month when they face four ranked teams.
The No. 2 Huskies (6-0), who returned just two starters from the team that won the program's fourth straight national title last spring, have extended the second-longest winning streak in program and women's basketball history to 81 games. And in the process, they've already beaten three Top 25 opponents this season, including then-No. 2-ranked Baylor.
UConn faces four more ranked teams before January 1, including No. 14 Texas on Sunday and No. 1 Notre Dame on Wednesday in South Bend. The Huskies also play No. 9 Ohio State and No. 5 Maryland before January.
''We don't have that kind of talent that just blows you away like we've had in the past,'' Auriemma said this week. ''That means that every single minute of every day, every practice at every game, they've got to be tough, hard-nosed and really tough.''
UConn proved that on Thursday, dismantling No. 15 DePaul 91-46 after taking a 22-1 lead in what was supposed to be a serious test against a high-scoring offense. The Huskies' defense held DePaul to 25 percent shooting.
Forward Kia Nurse said she and her teammates were aware pundits thought they'd be more vulnerable this season after the graduation of stars Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson. She said Auriemma has challenged this group to maintain the program's tradition of excellence.
''For him to hold us to that standard and remind us that this is how UConn basketball is played, it lights a fire under us,'' she said. ''So when we get out in the next practices, the next games, shoot-arounds, we understand that is the expectation here and that is where we need to be.''
Sophomore Katie Lou Samuelson said the team is still learning chemistry on the court and once the players figure it out, they'll only get better.
''Last year we understood the three of them (Stewart, Tuck and Jefferson) would go and do what they do every game,'' she said. ''Now we have to figure out, OK, who is going to step up and take shots tonight? Who is going step up and make those passes? It's going to be different every night. So that's always difficult, but it's also a great thing for our versatility.''
Auriemma said he doesn't know if the team will keep playing the way it did against Baylor and DePaul, and he's still not quite sure about the caliber of this group. But, he said that's normal for this time of year.
And he expects to know a lot more after the run against ranked teams in December.
''There's no guarantee like the past couple years that, yeah we got this,'' Auriemma said. ''It's a wait and see. It's a process. I just don't want to take any steps back. I don't know how many steps forward we're going to take. I just don't want to take any steps back.''