UConn women's basketball team's 145-game regular-season conference win streak ends after loss to Villanova

Villanova beat the UConn women's basketball team 72-69 on Wednesday in Hartford, Connecticut, ending the No. 8 Huskies' 145-game regular-season conference winning streak that dated back to March 2013 and was the longest in NCAA women's basketball history.

Counting conference tournament games, the streak was 169 games.

UConn's last loss to a conference foe in the regular season came at Notre Dame, which was followed by a loss to the Fighting Irish in the championship game of the 2013 Big East tournament. However, the Huskies rebounded to win the national championship that season, the first of four titles in a row.

UConn then moved to the American Athletic Conference in 2013-14 and didn't lose to a conference foe in seven seasons in that league. The Huskies moved to a restructured Big East last season and went 18-0 in the regular season and won the conference tournament, beating Villanova 84-39 in the semifinals.

It was a very different matchup on Wednesday between the Huskies and the Wildcats, who moved to 16-6 overall and 10-3 in the Big East. Villanova has won eight in a row and 13 of its past 14.

"Our defense came up pretty big, for sure," said Villanova's Denise Dillon, who took over last season at her alma mater after longtime coach Harry Perretta retired. "We put up 72 against UConn. Saw a lot of players contributing.

"We're just excited. We talked about shrinking the scoring gap against UConn. I'm so proud of this group."

The Wildcats shot 51.8% from the field, including 45.5% (10-of-22) from behind the arc. Lior Garzon led Villanova with 19 points, while Maddy Siegrist (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Brianna Herlihy (15, 10) each had double-doubles.

"Games have to be won; they're not preordained," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You've got to lose at some point, otherwise you're not in a good conference. Losing to a good team like Villanova, they deserved to win.

"I thought today, they were way more physical than us. They just worked harder at it. This was just not a good day. Losing is part of basketball, and you have to figure out how it happened and then move on and get ready for the next one."

Losing hasn't been part of the Huskies' conference slate for a very long time. But a lot has hit UConn this season, including injuries and health issues.

The Huskies on Wednesday were without center Olivia Nelson-Ododa, who didn't feel well prior to the game and said she couldn't play, and guard Caroline Ducharme, who has missed the past two contests after a head injury. Star guard Paige Bueckers has been out since sustaining a knee injury on Dec. 5 in a win against Notre Dame.

But UConn freshman guard Azzi Fudd, who returned recently from a foot injury, followed up her 25 points in a win over Tennessee on Sunday with 29 against Villanova. Fudd and guard Christyn Williams each played all 40 minutes for the Huskies, who used six players total.

Williams scored 24 points but said afterward that she felt the loss was her responsibility.

"With guys being out, we're not going to use that as an excuse," Williams said. "As long as we have five, we should be ready to go. As a senior, I have to make sure that my team is ready to go. This game is on me. I apologize to my teammates, and it won't happen again moving forward."

Asked his thoughts on Williams, Auriemma said, "I don't like the idea that one person is responsible for it. I don't think that's ever the case."

"You have to be able to score inside and outside. You've gotta have some kind of balance in your offense. You can't rely just on how many jump shots you're going to make that game," he said. "It's mind-boggling that we're not able to score in the lane more than we do. And then, it's hard to get good shots against a good defensive team in Villanova."