Katie Lou Samuelson has vivid memories of herself as an eighth grader, staring at the TV in her family’s living room, watching Maya Moore lead the UConn women’s basketball team to sports history. That season, 2010–2011, the Huskies set a new NCAA record for the most consecutive wins in college basketball history with 90, surpassing the previous mark of 88 that was set in 1974 by the UCLA men’s team.
Six years after Moore, Samuelson finds herself in nearly the same spot—except that now, the UConn sophomore, considered the best player on the country’s best team, has a chance to transcend Moore’s game-winning streak. After the Huskies thumped USF on Tuesday night to tie their own 90-game record, UConn (15–0) has a chance to set a new NCAA mark if it wins against SMU (10–6) on Saturday in Dallas.
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“I never imagined that I’d be in that same position [as Moore],” Samuelson told Excelle Sports. “There were a bunch of players on that team I looked up to who made me work harder as a player, so it’s really cool to look back and see where I am now and where we are as a team.”
Samuelson, who is averaging a team-best 20.1 points per game this season, isn’t the only Husky who realizes the gravity of what the team is on the cusp of achieving. Even some of UConn’s most focused players are stopping to smell the roses for this one.
“It means a lot,” UConn sophomore Napheesa Collier told Excelle Sports. “Just the fact that our names are with all those great names from the first streak, that is kind of surreal when you think about it.”
The rest of the Huskies have also had some time to think about it. With the record approaching around the winter holidays, head coach Geno Auriemma took the time to talk with his team about the opportunity during a post-game film session. The chance at a new record had already become a frequent line of inquiry during player interviews, but this was the first time Auriemma was broaching the subject directly.
“We took one day and Coach [Auriemma] addressed it and asked us if it’s something we want to do and be a part of and we said we did,” Samuelson said. “We looked back at what we’ve accomplished this year as a team specifically and then specifically what we’re on the verge of doing.”
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While Auriemma has allowed the Huskies a few moments here and there to enjoy their ride to history, Samuelson says her hard-nosed coach isn’t keen on letting them dwell on it.
“He does a really good job of making sure we know that every team is coming after us and we have a target on our backs, so we have to be ready to go each game,” Samuelson said. “We can’t get caught up in the streak … We still have business to take care of on the court.”
This time around, the Huskies also know the dangers of getting caught up in the hype surrounding a winning streak of epic proportions. They know the end result of the 2010–11 team’s season—a loss in the national semifinal to Notre Dame that thwarted a storybook ending to Moore’s collegiate career—and they are determined to prevent history from repeating itself.
“We know that we have a lot more work to do,” Collier said. “We’re not becoming complacent with what we’ve done so far. We’re just working towards the future and always trying to improve.”