UConn has taken home every conference regular-season and tournament trophy offered in the history of the American Athletic Conference.
But senior Crystal Dangerfield said Saturday's clinching 66-53 win over UCF made holding this one feel a little bit different.
“We had to bear down and earn the win and in other years that hasn't been the case,” she said. “In other years, I'm on the bench in the fourth quarter at some point, we don't get that today. And just overall for the season we've had to earn our conference wins, and again that's different from how it's been in the past.”
Megan Walker scored 20 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Anna Makurat added 17 points and Dangerfield had 12 of her 14 in the second half for the Huskies (23-3, 13-0 American).
It was Connecticut's 50th conference regular-season or tournament title in its 46 seasons. The Huskies will rejoin the Big East Conference next season.
“A whole bunch of those were done in the best conference in the country (the Big East) at the time, so it was something to really be proud of,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “But regardless of what league we've been in, at the beginning of the season, that's goal number one.”
Masseny Kaba scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead UCF (16-9, 8-5), which came into the game having won five in a row and six of seven. Kay Kay Wright added 12 points and Sianni Martin had 11 for the Knights.
The Huskies improved to 133-0 in conference games since the formation of the AAC, including 115-0 in the regular season.
Connecticut never trailed. UCF hit just one of its first 14 shots and the Huskies held the Knights without a basket for about 8 1/2 minutes in the first half.
The Huskies led 8-3 when UCF's Wright turned her left ankle battling for a rebound and had to leave the game. When she returned in the second quarter, UConn led 16-4.
“It was a big deal,” UCF coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “And not just because of her playing and scoring, but because of her leadership qualities on the floor, when they huddle up.”
Wright returned in the second quarter and UCF outscored the Huskies 14-12 to trail 28-18 at the half.
UConn extended the lead to as many as 20-points in the third, before the Knights made another run.
It was 52-40 with 8:23 left in the game when UConn's Olivia Nelson-Ododa was hit in the nose on what was ruled an intentional foul by Kaba. The Knights were hit with another intentional foul a short time later and UConn was able to stretch the lead back to 58-40.
UCF went on a final run to cut the lead to 10, but a 3-point play and a 3-point shot by Anna Makurat on consecutive possessions put the game away.
This was UConn's 207th straight win over an unranked opponent.
UConn made 12 of 26 shots from 3-point range, while holding UCF to just one 3-point basket on six attempts.
UConn struggled in their first game against UCF, winning just 59-52 on the road on Jan. 16. Walker said the team showed they have grown a lot since that game.
“We've definitely taken a step forward,” she said. “It all starts in practice, coaches putting us in different positions. We worked a lot against their zone, so that really helped us and it transitioned over into the game.”
UCF: Wright scored her 1,500th career point in the first half. She had scored 20 points four times in the Knights previous five games and had 18 points in the last meeting between the two teams.
UConn: The Huskies honored seniors Crystal Dangerfield, Kyla Irwin, Molly Bent, Batouly Camara and graduate transfer Evelyn Adebayo before the game. The senior class has a record of 130-8 and is 61-0 against AAC opponents.
UCF: The Knights head home to host Temple on Wednesday
UConn: The Huskies travel to Cincinnati Wednesday to take on the Bearcats.