Kim Barnes Arico and her St. John's Red Storm ended two incredible UConn streaks and years of frustration with one shocking victory.
Shenneika Smith's 3-pointer from the wing with 8 seconds left lifted St. John's to a 57-56 win over No. 2 Connecticut on Saturday night, snapping the Huskies' 99-game home court winning streak. It was the Huskies' first home loss to an unranked opponent in nearly 19 years.
"It's truly unbelievable," Barnes Arico said. "There aren't many teams that can say they beat UConn in this place and now we're one of them."
St. John's became only the fifth team to win at Storrs since 1993, joining Tennessee, Georgia, Notre Dame and Rutgers. The Red Storm, who have won seven of their last eight games — the lone loss coming to then-No. 2 Notre Dame — haven't had much success anywhere against the Huskies. They lost the previous 27 meetings since a home victory over the Huskies in 1993.
"It's amazing for our team," said senior Da'Shena Stevens, who led the Red Storm with 15 points and eight rebounds. "We've been playing great. We made a statement tonight. To play against a really good team on their home court with what they were going for tonight and to beat them is amazing."
Trailing by two with 16 seconds left, Nadirah McKenith drove the lane and kicked it out to Smith, who hit the 3 to give the Red Storm (18-8, 10-3 Big East) the lead.
"When (coach) wrote the play up, I hadn't hit one all day and this was the going to be the one I hit," said Smith, who had only made three of her 22 3-point attempts this season before that shot.
UConn (24-3, 11-2) had one final chance, but Bria Hartley's 3-point attempt from the corner was short, setting off a wild celebration at midcourt by the Red Storm.
"Days like today are a reminder that you're only supposed to win when you play really well and beat the other team. We didn't deserve to win. I don't care if we won 900 in a row at home," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "Leading up to that last shot, if that shot goes in — hey that's 100 in a row. Realistically, though, St. John's outplayed us today. They did what they wanted to do better than what we wanted to do. It was a fitting end for them."
The Huskies last lost at home on March 6, 2007, falling to Rutgers in the Big East championship game. The NCAA counts the Huskies' postseason games in Hartford and Storrs as home games. With the UConn men's loss earlier in the day to No. 12 Marquette in Hartford, it marked the first time that both Huskies teams lost at home on the same day since Feb. 27, 1993.
UConn became the latest high-ranked team to lose to an unranked opponent. West Virginia shocked Notre Dame last weekend and Alabama upset No. 7 Kentucky.
"Isn't it great for women's basketball," Barnes Arico said. "It's unbelievable and great for our game, our game is growing. When I first started here, people were losing by 50 or 60 night in and night out. It says women's basketball has come a long way and there is a lot of parity in the game."
As shocking as the other two top 10 losses were, the Huskies had always taken care of unranked teams, winning their last 261 straight at home and 173 overall against non-Top 25 opponents. Louisville was the last unranked team to knock off the Huskies at home in the NCAA tournament in 1993.
"I think a loss is a loss," UConn center Stefanie Dolson said. "I don't think we thought about it as, 'Oh we lost and it was our first in 20 years or whatever. We lost because of the way we played. We're just extremely angry with ourselves, frustrated with ourselves."
The Huskies had shattered their own Division I record of 69 straight home wins that they shared with Tennessee. UConn set the overall women's record in November by beating Dayton and passing Division III Rust (Miss.) College, which won 88 straight at home from 1982-89. All but two of those wins during UConn's streak have come by double digits and 35 of them by more than 40.
Stanford now has the longest active streak at 76 games, which includes last year's win that snapped UConn's record 90-game overall winning streak.
The home streak began in the first round of the 2007 NCAAs with an 82-33 win over Maryland-Baltimore County in Storrs.
UConn almost extended it to 100 against the Red Storm when Dolson hit a lay-in with 34 seconds left to give UConn a 56-54 advantage after a back-and-forth affair.
Neither team was able to build more than a four-point lead in the second half. Trailing 34-32 at the break, UConn rallied to take a 42-39 lead with 14 minutes left. From there the two teams traded points over the next 13 minutes. Kiah Stokes' lay-in with 9:02 left made it 48-44 UConn. The Huskies didn't hit another basket until Kelly Faris connected for a 3-pointer with the shot clock running down with 3:31 left. It gave UConn a 53-52 lead.
But St. John's wouldn't quit. After Mary Nwachukwu hit a jumper to make it 54-53 St. John's, Kaleena Mosqueeda-Lewis hit a free throw with 1:07 left to tie the score and set up the exciting finish.
Mosqueeda-Lewis finished with 12 points to lead UConn.