STANFORD, Calif. -- Let's just spit it out before either of these Hall of Fame coaches can say it first: "It's only November."
While real statements aren't made until April, Stanford still said something rather important in its wholly unexpected 88-86 upset of top-ranked Connecticut in overtime at Maples Pavilion on Monday.
Stanford opened the season with a new offense and a new identity. But different can be very good, both for the sixth-ranked Cardinal and maybe for the landscape of an entire sport.
Different was everywhere on Monday night at Stanford. From the Cardinal offense and the names on their jerseys, to the vaunted Huskies being forced into a competitive game from start to finish, ultimately finishing with a long walk back to the locker room as the losing team as Stanford students flooded the floor to celebrate.
Not very many people can say they saw this coming. Connecticut has been the overwhelming favorite to win a third consecutive title since about five minutes after the Huskies won their last one in Nashville, Tennessee, last April.
And Stanford, retooling after the departure of Chiney Ogwumike, wasn't even picked to win the Pac-12 in the media poll for the first time in a decade and a half.
But Tara VanDerveer and her players proved there is something quite compelling to be found in the unfamiliar.
"We are not just willing to be written off," Stanford wing Bonnie Samuelson said. "We were confident. We believed. We believed it could happen."
Sophomore guard Lili Thompson said it's "understandable" that people don't know yet what to make of the Cardinal, or at least they didn't before Monday night.
"The idea is the same: that we are just going to come out every day and work as hard as we can in practice," Thompson said. "Our offense has changed and our personnel has changed, but we are just as determined as we have always been."
"[Stanford's] guards totally outplayed our guards at both ends of the floor, I thought. Their guards were much more aggressive about getting into the lane and creating offense for themselves." UConn coach Geno Auriemma
Four years after ending Connecticut's NCAA-record 90-game win streak on this same floor, the Cardinal killed another streak on Monday night. The Huskies hadn't lost in 47 games, dating back to the 2013 Big East tournament title game against Notre Dame. They hadn't lost a game in November since 2004.
And Stanford, a team that had thrown its tried-and-true triangle into the dustbin and hitched its fortunes to a pair of gritty, under-regarded guards, pulled it off again. The Cardinal came back from 10 points down with 6 minutes, 32 seconds to go, the point at which the Huskies realistically could have -- dare we say, should have -- shut the door.
But Stanford senior Amber Orrange, the quiet floor leader, buried an open 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
"We ran a play to get Bonnie open, and when she got the ball, everybody kind of sucked over to her and she pump-faked it and passed it back to me," Orrange said. "I was surprisingly calm when I hit the shot. I was just glad it went in."
A 10-foot jumper by Orrange gave the Cardinal an 85-84 lead in the overtime period with 1:39 to go. The Cardinal sealed the win when, with 1:03 remaining, Connecticut's senior star, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis -- who salvaged a forgettable night with 10 points in the second half -- couldn't get the ball in bounds and was called for a five-second turnover.
Stanford ultimately closed the deal with three free throws in the final 20 seconds by sisters Bonnie and Karlie Samuelson -- whose youngest sister, Katie Lou, is bound for the Huskies next season.
Orrange finished with 17 points and Thompson totaled 24.
"Their guards were the big difference," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "Their guards totally outplayed our guards at both ends of the floor, I thought. Their guards were much more aggressive about getting into the lane and creating offense for themselves."
Bonnie Samuelson ended up with 14, while younger sister Karlie was largely credited with shutting down Mosqueda-Lewis, regarded as the nation's best shooter.
"They had a great game plan, which I'm sure now everybody else is going to copy," Auriemma said. "Put three guys on Stewie [Breanna Stewart] and let everybody else shoot, and nobody else wanted to make any shots.
"Defensively, they were really good on her, and offensively, I don't think Kaleena got the movement that we needed to get her going."
Compared to 2010's game -- Maples Pavilion practically vibrated in the hour leading up to that matchup -- this was much more of a slow build. A late-arriving crowd filed in for a 6 p.m. PT start on a work night, and the Stanford offense was a little late arriving as well, the Cardinal needing nearly five minutes to score its first basket of the game and looking at a nine-point deficit in the early minutes.
But from there, the Cardinal guards, who are going to be the heart and soul of this remade team, took over on the offensive end, slashing and shooting and driving and elevating the volume in the building with each big basket, rebound or defensive stop.
"It's a November game," VanDerveer said, "we knew we had to be prepared. Our team really focused on what we needed to do and they worked really hard to do it."
Connecticut, admittedly, was not nearly at its best.
Mosqueda-Lewis was 10-for-13 on 3-pointers in Connecticut's season opener but needed to be better than her 3-of-11 shooting night from the floor Monday to take some pressure off Stewart, who was 8-of-18 from the field and 4-of-8 from the free throw line.
The Huskies were outrebounded 41-37 and made some key mistakes, including the crucial five-second call and the defensive lapse that led to Orrange's game-tying shot at the end of regulation.
Stewart said the Huskies went into the locker room "in shock" after the final whistle.
"We have a lot of new guys who have never been in this situation," Stewart said. "I was frustrated because there are things you wish you could have done better. ... It was mixed emotions. We talked about it and pointed out that things need to change.
"It's November, and we have a lot to improve on. This sucks, but we have to move forward and get better."
There is little doubt this loss will kick-start Auriemma and the Huskies, perhaps provide the impetus they need to get themselves steeled to win a third straight title.
But in the meantime, this season just got a lot more interesting. And that is much different than when the night began.