Temple Streak Continues Though Eclipsed By UConn's New Record in American Action
Temple picked the wrong day in the wrong conference to continue to do the right thing Saturday when the Owls beat Tulsa 58-49 in the Reynolds Center in Oklahoma for their ninth straight victory to stay tied at the top of the American Athletic Conference standings.
The Owls (13-3, 4-0 AAC) are one of just two teams yet to lose to another American opponent this season.
Once again, two of the Temple backcourt were explosive as Feyonda Fitzgerald and Donnaizha Fountain each scored 19 points while another guard also reach double figures in Alliya Butts, who scored 13 points.
Temple’s Ruth Sherrill grabbed 12 rebounds.and has been a big part of fueling the current run by the Owls, who next visit Houston 8 p.m. Wednesday.
Shug Dickson had 21 points for Tulsa (5-12, 1-3).
The Owls forced 20 turnovers, and limited the Golden Hurricanes to 35 percent from the field and just 2-for-12 on three-point attempts for 16.7 percent.
But the Temple streak was the other news of the day in the American.
That’s because down in the deep south, top-ranked and four-time defending NCAA champion Connecticut kept pace with Temple at the top of American by routing host SMU 88-48 in Dallas, Texas, where the overall unbeaten Huskies (16-0, 4-0) are now a threat to return in late March to claim a fifth straight national crown. The Women’s Final Four will be at the American Airlines Arena, home of the NBA Dallas Mavericks.
The win was the 91st straight for UConn, which snapped the tie with its own previous NCAA mark of 90 that was achieved earlier in the week at home in Hartford with a 65-point rout of No. 20 against South Florida.
On Saturday, Hall of Fame UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s squad showed little sign of nerves with its new date of history on hand by opening up a 21-0 lead from the outset on SMU (`0-7, 1-3) at Moody Coliseum..
“This team is pretty good at just keeping things on an even keel,” he said. “Even afterward, there’s a feeling of accomplishment, they feel like they’ve done something significant. But there isn’t this over-the-top screaming and yelling as if we just won a national championship.”
The last setback came in overtime after holding a double digit lead at sixth-ranked Stanford on Nov. 17, 2014.
The previous mark of 90 occurred more than six years ago, at the time gaining extra notoriety for breaking the NCAA men’s mark of 88 by the fabled UCLA squad under the legendary John Wooden.
Now the Huskies have broken it twice. Before that was the then mark of 70, broken in the old Big East title game of 2003 by Villanova at Rutgers.
“I’m not taking for granted at all this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of, said Katie Lou Samuelson, who scored 28 points. “Now we can really just focus each game at a time, and not have to worry anything if we’re keeping it up or not.”
The biggest looming threat to snap the new record run is No. 5 South Carolina, which will visit UConn’s Gampel Pavilion in Storrs on campus in a non-conference game in early February.
If the string keeps going, that will be for 100 straight.
The Huskies have yet to lose a game in the American, which was carved out of the old Big East with additions from former C-USA members among other teams. They are 58-0 in regular season games in the conference and swept each of the last three AAC tournaments.
Ironically, the old 90-win mark also came after losing to Stanford, then in the 2008 NCAA national semifinal in Tampa and the Cardinal stopped the run at 90 at home on Dec. 30, 2010.
With the graduation of three superstars, who went 1-2-3 in the WNBA draft in Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson, and Morgan Tuck, even Auriemma doubted that his squad would still be untouched consider a tough non-conference schedule that has now included a narrow opening day win at Florida State, a home win over No. 2 Baylor and road wins over sixth-ranked Notre Dame and No. 3 Maryland, which threatened late last month to end the current run when the Terrapins hosted the Huskies.
Besides Samuelson’s big total, Napheesa Collier had 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, while Gabby Williams double doubled with 19 points and 10 rebounds, besides dishing six assists.
The achievement didn’t bring an immediate call from President O’Bama, whose term ends Friday, like the previous one did after UConn topped Florida State in Hartford for the 89th straight to pass the UCLA mark.
But it did draw a statement from Anucha Browne, NCAA Vice President Women’s Basketball Championships.
“Congratulations to Geno Auriemma ad the UConn Huskies on the sustained excellent it has taken to establish a new consecutive games won record,” Browne said. “Even though they make it look easy at times, 91 wins and counting is an unbelievable accomplishment.
“It is saying something when you have broken the all-time consecutive games won record three times. To have won over 70 games ina row three times over the last 14 years is a testament o the UConn student-athletes, coaches, administrators and fans who continue to fuel the program. Kudos to the UConn women’s basketball program for continuing to raise the bar for the rest of the sport.”
UConn first plays Temple this season on the road Feb. 1 in the Owls’ bigger Liacouras Center, as opposed to McGonigle Hall, where the women play most of their games and sold out or reached near sellout capacity the last several times the Huskies played in Philadelphia.
New SMU coach Travis Mays observed of the opposition, “What a good team. What a very good team. I hear people say at the beginning of the year UConn was supposed to have a down year. That’s not a down year. That’s a program that has a pedigree, and the culture is there. You go there, they just plug you in and they keep on winning.”
Having played the other conference unbeaten team in Temple, now Tulsa gets UConn next on Tuesday night before the Huskies return home to host Tulane on Jan.22.
Rutgers Upsets Michigan State in Big Ten
The Scarlet Knights rallied from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter at home in the Rutgers Athletic Center to shock the Spartans 62-58 in the Big Ten.
Rutgers (6-13, 3-3 Big Ten), which has improved since hitting the conference portion of the schedule, trailed 54-44 before launching an 11-2 outburst with Aliyah Jeune connecting on a three-pointer to bring the home team within a point at 56-55 within the final minute of regulation.
Michigan State’s Tori Jankoska hit a pair of free throws to in the final seconds to maintain a small lead but Khadaizha Sanders then grabbed a steal and Kandiss Barber completed a traditional three-point play for the Knights.
Jankoska missed a three-point shot for the Spartans and Jeune hit two foul shots to seal the win.
Michigan State (13-5, 3-2), had just knocked No. 11 Ohio State out of the conference unbeaten column prior to visiting Rutgers, whose Shrita Parker had a career-high 20 points in Saturday’s game. Barber scored 15 points and Jeune scored 13 for the home team.
Jankoska topped Michigan State with 20 points. Prior to her foul shots in the final seconds, Barber had given Rutgers the lead going length-of-floor for a layup. Then came the steal and score for the upset.
The Scarlet Knights next host Iowa in a Big Ten game 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Rutgers was able to get 26 points off Michigan State turnovers.
Rider Suffers Overtime Loss at Finish on Fairfield’s Four-Point Play
The Broncs at home in Alumni Gym in Lawrenceville, N.J., had a four-game win streak ended by the Stags, who claimed their fourth straight in a Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference game.
Julie Duggan scored her fifth straight double double for Rider with a season-high 21 points and 10 rebounds in the 68-67 setback.
Down one with just over two seconds in the extra period, Rider (12-5, 6-2 MAAC) went to Kamila Hoskova for the potential game-winner to preserve the Broncs win streak but her shot was blocked by the Stags (8-8, 5-2).
Rider had just ended a 27-game losing streak to Marist when the Broncs traveled to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Thursday night.
Less than a minute remained in overtime when Lexi Posset tied the game for the Broncs at 64-64.
Fairfield then missed a pair of foul shots and Robin Perkins nailed a three-pointer for a 67-64 lead with four seconds to go in the overtime for Rider.
Then Fairfield’s Sam Kramer out of a timeout and then in traffic tied it with a 3-pointer and was fouled, thus sent to the line to get the game-winner.
“It doesn’t come down to one play,” Rider coach Lynn Milligan said afterwards. “It comes down to us giving up a lead in the fourth quarter. We just didn’t defend well enough today to get it done.
“This is a hard lesson for us to learn,” Milligan said. “When you have a game like this in your hands, you have to stay focused for 45 minutes and we didn’t do that. We made a lot of plays that are uncharacteristic of us and that’s because Fairfield did a good job executing.”
Kelsey Carey had 25 points for Fairfield.
It was the first Rider loss in 12 games after leading at the half.
The Broncs next head to a MAAC game at Saint Peters Thursday 5 p.m. At the Yanitelli Center in Jersey City, N.J.