UConn's 47-game winning streak is over after the top-ranked Huskies lost 88-86 to No. 6 Stanford in overtime Monday night. And while how a team plays in its second game of the season generally doesn't mean much, this stat is an eye-opener: Since Maya Moore left for the WNBA, the Huskies are 0-8 in overtime games decided by five or fewer points.
“That’s not good,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said, via SNY.com's Carl Adamec. “It’s a double-edged sword. You have some teams that play so well that you’re not in that situation very often. I don’t know what our record was in those games before Maya graduated. I’m sure we won a couple."
But Auriemma has long stressed the importance of facing tough competition, especially early in the season when he's trying to mold his team for the rigors of February, March and April basketball.
“The players themselves are not in that situation enough times. That’s unfair to them. But what are you supposed to do? You can’t create them. I’m sure there were reasons for every loss that you would look back on … Sometimes it comes down to one play, one free throw. One play doesn’t cost you a game but one play can win the game. Some players just have the inherent ability to make those big plays in big moments. No matter how much you work on them, you need big-time players to make big-time plays at big-time moments.”
Junior forward Breanna Stewart dropped 23 points and pulled 10 rebounds against the Cardinal, but this is a new-look Huskies team without Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley, who left for the WNBA after last season's national title.
“We need more contributions from more people because we’re Connecticut,” Auriemma said. “I don’t know how many more games Stanford will play at home that they’ll storm the court at the end of the game. This might be the only one. Some of our guys are just not in tune with that yet.”
Stanford has some experience with beating UConn, often when the Huskies are at the top of their game. Four years ago, the Cardinal snapped UConn's 90-game winning streak. Still, Stewart admitted to being shocked when the final buzzer sounded and Stanford had prevailed.
“We have a lot of new guys and they’ve never been in this situation before,” Stewart said. “Even with Saniya (Chong) and her class, they’ve never lost. I was frustrated because there are things you wish you could have done better. My free throws were awful, that kind of thing. After the coaches came in we talked about it and pointed out that things need to change. This is not going to be one of those Connecticut teams that you look back at as super-successful if we don’t change what we’re doing.”
The Huskies will get their first chance at redemption on Sunday when they host Creighton at Gampel Pavilion for a 1 p.m. tip-off.