TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — No. 1 UConn isn’t impressed with another undefeated regular season.
The Huskies crave more after winning the past four national titles — 11 overall under coach Geno Auriemma.
“It’s not a big story because it’s been done so many times,” Auriemma said after Monday night’s 96-68 rout of South Florida completed a surprising run to the ninth perfect regular season in program history.
“At this point, you hate to say it,” Auriemma added, “but all we’ve done … it’s all going to be determined (by) what happens the next four weekends.”
Napheesa Collier had a career-high 39 points and 12 rebounds, helping UConn (29-0, 16-0 American Athletic Conference) extend its NCAA record winning streak to 104 games.
Katie Lou Samuelson became the 44th player in program history with 1,000 career points and finished with 16 despite a cold shooting night.
With the Huskies’ star going 6 of 19 from the field, including just 3 of 12 on 3-point attempts, Collier dominated inside while making 15 of 19 shots on the way to topping 30 points for the second time in three games.
“I think Napheesa did what she’s done all season. I don’t think there’s anything different. She knows where she wants the ball, she goes to that spot and she gets it and she finishes,” Auriemma said. “She’s incredibly efficient, she’s incredibly consistent. She’s just really hard to play against. Our guys don’t normally score 39 points, that’s a lot of points.”
Gabby Williams had 18 points and nine rebounds for the Huskies, who played without injured guard Kia Nurse (right ankle) for the fourth straight game.
UConn (29-0, 16-0 American Athletic Conference) completed its ninth undefeated regular season and moved within one victory having 12 consecutive 30-win seasons. The four-time defending national champions won an earlier meeting against South Florida by 65.
“Collier was special tonight,” said USF coach Jose Fernandez, whose team played considerably better than it did during 102-37 loss to the Huskies on the road last month.
The Bulls scored 38 in the first half this time.
“Definitely much better performance than the game up there, that’s for sure,” Fernandez said. “We go into halftime down 18, and you’re shooting close to 50 percent from the floor. What else can you do?”
USF (22-7, 11-5) trailed by as many as 21 in the opening half. The Bulls pulled within 62-48 midway through the third quarter before Samuelson made a long 3-pointer to begin an 18-9 spurt that hiked UConn’s lead to 23 heading into the final quarter.
Ariadna Pujol led USF with 16 points. Kitija Laksa had 15 and Lala Flores added 13 for the Bulls.
UConn has rebounded from its first scare in months — a three-point victory over Tulane — to win its next three games by 45, 43 and 28. Despite playing the Huskies tough for stretches of games in recent seasons, USF is 0-22 all-time against them. The Bulls have played the four-time defending national champions eight times during UConn’s winning streak, losing by an average of 29 points.
SUN DOME ROCKS
Not surprisingly, UConn attracted the largest crowd of the season — men or women’s — to the 10,000 seat USF Sun Dome. Attendance was announced as 5,948 — more than twice the 2,334 the Bulls drew last month against another Top 10 opponent, Louisville. USF men have played home games before of more than 3,000 just twice, including a season-high 3,238 against UConn last month.
Top-seeded UConn begins postseason play Saturday in the quarterfinals of the AAC tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
As the No. 3 seed, USF also has a first-round bye in the conference tournament, beginning play in Saturday’s quarterfinals.