STORRS, Conn. – UConn may have 99 problems, but losing ain’t one.
Katie Lou Samuelson scored 19 of her 22 points in the first half and the top-ranked Huskies extended their NCAA record winning streak to 99 games with an 83-41 win over SMU on Saturday.
Samuelson shook off an illness which caused her to miss practice Thursday and Friday and hit eight of her 13 shots from the floor.
“You don’t want your teammates to ever worry that if Lou’s not feeling that great, what are we going to get from her?” she said. “I wanted to show them that no matter what’s going on, I’m still going to be able to be out there and give 100 percent and do something to contribute to the team.”
Napheesa Collier scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to record her ninth double-double this season for the Huskies (24-0, 12-0 American), who will try to reach the 100-straight win milestone against No. 6 South Carolina on Monday night.
Kia Nurse and Saniya Chong each scored 13 points and Gabby Williams had 11 points and nine rebounds.
The win was UConn’s 126th straight against an unranked opponent and its 75th in a row in the American Athletic Conference, where they have never lost a game.
Williams hit a jumper from the foul line to open the contest and for the 14th time this season, the Huskies never trailed.
Kiara Perry had 11 points to lead SMU (13-11, 4-7), which made just 15 of its 61 shots from the floor (24.6 percent).
SMU kept it close in the first quarter, trailing 9-8 before Samuelson hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to start a 13-4 UConn run.
The Huskies outscored the Mustangs 22-8 in the second quarter and the rout was on.
Nurse said there was never a chance that the Huskies would look past the Mustangs.
“Monday didn’t exist until right now,” she said after the game. “That’s how you stay focused.”
This was the same team UConn defeated by 40 points on the road last month to break its own record with the program’s 91st straight win.
SMU coach Travis Mays said he was disappointed that his team didn’t seem to learn much from that first loss.
“I think we gave up 30 fast-break points, and a lot of those were off of some of our turnovers,” he said. “The way to test and gauge how good you can be or how good you are, you go against the best team like that and it shows up. It shows our habits and we definitely didn’t get that accomplished.”
UConn: Williams’ nine rebounds give her 201 this season. She joins Maya Moore and Breanna Stewart as the only players in program history with at least 200 rebounds, 100 assists, 50 steals and 25 blocked shots in a season.
SMU: The Mustangs already have matched their win total from last season with 13. Junior Alicia Froling, who came in averaging a double-double, at 14.9 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, scored just six points and had eight rebounds in this one.
Losing is inevitable
Auriemma got very philosophical when asked about the chances of South Carolina ending the winning streak. Even the sand on the beach, he said, eventually loses to the ocean, because the ocean just keeps coming.
“I could be Monday. It could be next weekend. It could be the following weekend,” he said. “We’re going to lose. It’s not if. It’s just when.”
The win is UConn’s 60th straight at home. The Huskies would need 39 more to match the program’s own NCAA record of 99.
UConn: The Huskies’ game against the sixth-ranked Gamecocks at Gampel Pavilion will be their last major test of the regular season. The Gamecocks are 21-2 after beating Auburn 60-41 on Thursday night.
Auriemma said South Carolina has the ability to expose some cracks in his team’s facade.
“We’re not where I want to be right now,” Auriemma said. “A game like Monday night comes at a perfect time for us. Maybe it’s exactly the game we need at exactly the right time.”
SMU: The Mustangs travel to Philadelphia to take on Temple on Wednesday night. The Owls were 18-5 coming into the weekend and 8-2 in the conference.
Subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.