It's business as usual for UConn in record-setting win

UConn's win streak by the numbers (0:29)

The Huskies beat SMU on Saturday to win their 91st consecutive game and break their own NCAA record for longest win streak in college basketball history. We break down the historic run. (0:29)

DALLAS -- You might think UConn coach Geno Auriemma knows almost nothing about what disappointing losses feel like. But then you remember he is, in his words, "a long-suffering Eagles fan."

So about the only unpleasant thing about his Huskies' trip to Dallas was being reminded of the success of the Eagles' hated NFL rival, the Cowboys. Auriemma joked that his players would have to cheer for Green Bay in Sunday's NFL playoff game against Dallas, or they'd have to run sprints.

But when it comes to UConn women's basketball fans -- hey, they really don't know much about losing. Their team just keeps on being incredible.

A 12th national championship, which could be won in Dallas in April, is still what's paramount on the Huskies' to-do list. That said, yes, they were happy to cross off the "break consecutive victory record" item on Saturday, as their 88-48 win over SMU gave them 91 wins in a row.

That broke the mark of 90 straight, set by UConn teams led by Maya Moore and Tina Charles from 2008 to 2010. Charles graduated after the Huskies' 2010 NCAA championship, so she wasn't there when the streak ended at Stanford on Dec. 30, 2010. Moore was a senior then, and her look of disgusted irritation after that loss was the kind of expression you just don't see much from any Huskies. They rarely are in position to feel that way.

UConn fell in the national semifinals in 2011 and 2012. And they had four losses in the 2012-13 season, three of them to Notre Dame. But since the start of the 2013 NCAA tournament, the Huskies have just one loss: Nov. 17, 2014, at Stanford by two points in overtime.

That's the only thing that's kept this 91-game winning streak from being 139 now. But such lofty -- ridiculous, really -- numbers are not what the Huskies think about.

"We were just focused on playing the game today," said Katie Lou Samuelson, who led UConn with 28 points. "But afterwards, it was a lot of fun."

Uh, OK. We'll take her word for that. There was no big celebration or anything. The Huskies didn't look any different than they ever do. Pretty much all business.

"It's a really cool accomplishment, but we know that we have a lot more we want to do this season," Samuelson continued. "We'll look more back on it later, rather than right now. Maybe at the end of the year, or in a couple of years, that's when we'll really be able to look back and see that we did something that's kinda never been done before."

"I'm really proud of this group and what they've been able to accomplish in a short period of time they've been together." UConn coach Geno Auriemma

Actually, she can remove the "kinda," at least in Division I hoops. But this streak isn't getting the same attention as the previous streak -- at least so far -- because this time UConn was competing against its own history.

There also was absolutely no doubt UConn was going to win Saturday. The Huskies got up 21-0 on the Mustangs, and that was that. UConn didn't play perfectly, or even as flawlessly as it did for stretches of Tuesday's game against South Florida. There are still things to "clean up," as the UConn players put it. But it's tough for outside eyes to find fault with the Huskies.

"So many things impress me about Coach Auriemma's team," said coach Travis Mays, in his first year with SMU. "They do the little things, the details, they compete more consistently than any other team in the country. They play the game the way it's supposed to be played; the ball moves until they can get a high-percentage shot.

"When they play, I don't think they care whether it's SMU or it's Notre Dame or whoever it is. Those players are challenging themselves to do whatever it is that they've been doing in practice."

That, in essence, truly is one of the most impressive things about the UConn program: the Huskies' ability to keep their level of play high, regardless of their opponent.

It's one of UConn's trademarks, going back a long time. And even though this year's team was thought likely to struggle, at least a little, after losing three seniors who were the first, second and third picks in the 2016 WNBA draft, the Huskies are still rolling along.

"I think it's about what's happened in practice," UConn's Kia Nurse said. "Because there were days when we weren't very good in practice, and things were not going well at all. And some voices had to step up and be heard. We were trying to find our team identity."

The Huskies were built around Breanna Stewart the last couple of years, a player who could do virtually anything and was extremely difficult for even the best teams to guard. None of the current Huskies are at Stewart's level. Yet combined as a group, they still seem like they're playing a different game than most of their opponents.

Consider that Saturday's 40-point victory came without guard Crystal Dangerfield, who is out with a stress reaction in her left foot. UConn didn't even need her in holding the Mustangs to 25 percent shooting (18-of-72) from the field and forcing SMU into 21 turnovers.

"I'm really proud of this group and what they've been able to accomplish in a short period of time they've been together," Auriemma said. "They overcame and fought a lot of things from November until today. They've grown up a lot and really come a long way.

"Today was not that great, either. It's not like we've played perfect basketball every night. But I'm happy for them."

Napheesa Collier and Gabby Williams each scored 19 points for UConn. Collier also got a career-high 16 rebounds and tied her career-best with six blocked shots, while Williams led the team with six assists.

The American Athletic Conference has not provided much challenge for the Huskies, who've won 67 consecutive games against league foes since the conference launched in 2013-14.

The next "milestone" victory for UConn would be No. 100. That chance would come -- barring an enormous upset between now and then -- at home against their final nonconference foe, South Carolina, on Feb. 13 on Big Monday (ESPN2). The Huskies could be headed into the NCAA tournament on a 107-game winning streak.

To get to that point, though, the Huskies must do the things they do best: ignoring any outside distractions, refusing to get complacent, continuing to push themselves to play and compete better. Even in a blowout victory, the Huskies can find things they don't like. And they don't ignore them.

"A lot of people are coming to watch us play, and we have to put on a show for them," Williams said. "When we have wasted minutes, we take it to heart. It's almost embarrassing for us."

The Huskies play at Tulsa on Tuesday, so they'll be staying in this area for a few days, including seeing a Mavericks-Timberwolves game Sunday in Dallas at American Airlines Center. That's the building where the Final Four will be held in April.

They keep that ultimate goal in mind, while also not overlooking any game along the way. Having long-range vision and short-range focus simultaneously isn't easy, but that's yet another quality that Auriemma always instills in his teams.

"If you expect to get something amazing back, you really do have to put yourself in a position where you feel like [you] deserve it because you've worked hard and earned it," Auriemma said. "I think these kids have done that. And what's helped them along the way is that group of people that came before them and that Connecticut mentality -- that culture -- that we're fortunate enough to have.

"That when there's a play to be made, there's no, 'Can I make this play? Am I good enough?' Instead it's like, 'I have no choice but to make this play, because I'm at Connecticut.' There's this belief. Things do have a way of becoming what you expect them to become a lot of times."

UConn expects to be the best, and the Huskies generally live up to that. They're at 91 victories in a row now, and there's no telling just how high that number might go.