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UConn wins big, looks ready for Selection Monday and No. 1 seed

UConn improved to 100-0 in American Athletic Conference games and clinched the league championship Tuesday with a 84-47 win over Wichita State. AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

WICHITA, Kan. -- The UConn players see the upsets that have been happening around the country in women's basketball. They've lost twice themselves this season -- albeit to two other projected No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament -- so they know more crazy things could occur in March.

But the second-ranked Huskies are playing well enough, as usual, that it's unthinkable they'll be upset in American Athletic Conference play -- which means they'll probably head into Selection Monday on a 13-game winning streak and be slotted into the Albany Regional about 130 miles from their campus.

The Huskies don't get as much attention when they're cruising past their AAC foes, like in Tuesday's 84-47 victory at Wichita State, which moved UConn to 100-0 in regular-season American games since joining the conference. But the Huskies -- with 11 NCAA titles and a streak of 11 consecutive trips to the Final Four -- are also never far from anyone's thoughts.

Still, UConn (25-2) never takes anything for granted.

"Anyone can lose any game," senior Napheesa Collier said. "You need to come into every game with the same focus, because teams are out to get you. Especially if they're the underdog. So you need to be ready."

Collier was ready Tuesday, as the Huskies visited Wichita State for the first time since the Shockers joined the American in 2017. UConn always draws a crowd on the road, and helped bring in 6,156 fans to Charles Koch Arena. The Huskies are mindful of putting on a good show on the road. And even if one of UConn's star attractions, coach Geno Auriemma, wasn't here -- he missed his second consecutive game because of a stomach virus -- the Huskies still did their thing.

"Through his career, Geno has had a willingness and desire to play in a lot of different places," said associate head coach Chris Dailey, who led the team in his absence, as she did Sunday in Tulsa. "It's something we put a lot of value in, and we talk to our players about it. These people have never seen Connecticut play live. So we want to leave here with the fans of Wichita State saying, 'Hey, they're a pretty good team. Here's what they do, how hard they play, how unselfish they play.'

"We may not make every shot. We do dumb things just like everybody else. But I think our effort level, our intensity -- people who know basketball appreciate it."

Collier shot 13-of-15 from the field and 5-of-8 from the line. No UConn player plays harder than Collier; she was hustling after a loose-ball rebound late in the fourth quarter when the game had long been decided.

Collier finished with 32 points and 12 rebounds, and is averaging 20.0 PPG and 10.5 RPG. Along with standouts such as Oregon's Sabrina Ionescu, Iowa's Megan Gustafson, Louisville's Asia Durr, Notre Dame's Arike Ogunbowale and Mississippi State's Teaira McCowan, Collier is a solid candidate for national player of the year.

"I think she does it with ease," junior Crystal Dangerfield (14 points, eight assists) said of Collier. "It's huge for this team, like a backbone for us."

Collier and fellow senior Katie Lou Samuelson (18 points, five assists) will have their senior day on Saturday against Houston in Storrs, Connecticut. That will be emotional for Huskies coaches and fans.

"They've been through the wars together, and they depend on each other," Dailey said of Collier and Samuelson, who are both expected to be WNBA first-round draft picks in April. "It's nice to see, it's fun to see. But then it kind of makes me sad to see they're not going to be with us that much longer.

"To watch both of their growth as players is one thing, but their growth as individuals -- you couldn't ask for two more coachable players. They're always involved, even when they're on the sidelines in practice. They're great ambassadors for what Connecticut basketball is."

No one will be surprised to hear the always-in-control Collier say of her upcoming senior day, "Well, I'm not going to cry."

"We've worked really hard to get to this point," Collier continued. "I don't see it as sad. Of course, I'm going to miss my teammates, but I'm proud of us and I'm excited for the future."

The Huskies, whose only losses are to Baylor and Louisville, close out the regular season at South Florida on March 4, and then play in the AAC tournament, which is March 8-11 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. UConn officially clinched the No. 1 seed for the league tournament with the victory over the Shockers. The Huskies haven't lost a game to an AAC foe since the conference began in 2013-14.

Dailey said she conferred a bit with Auriemma by phone Tuesday. She joked about him critiquing some things the Huskies staff did, prompting her to consider hanging up on him. In all seriousness, they have worked together since 1985, and know what each other is thinking all the time.

Dailey also knows exactly what the Huskies should look like going into March. How they play even in games they win easily, like Tuesday, is important.

"We came out with an aggressiveness and really pushed the ball in transition, and that just makes us a better team," Dailey said. "We made a lot of great plays.

"I find with our team, they're always surprising me. They're probably a little tougher than I think they are. At this point in the season, it's not about physical preparation. It's about mental preparation. And their ability -- whether it was Coach Auriemma here or myself -- to put the blinders on and be mentally prepared to play two games on the road in environments that aren't easy to play in, I think that says the world about them."