DALLAS >> Top-ranked UConn broke its own NCAA record with its 91st consecutive victory, scoring the first 21 points and romping past SMU 88-48 on Saturday.
Coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies (16-0, 4-0 AAC) broke the record of 90 wins in a row that his team first accomplished more than six years ago. They matched that mark with a 65-point rout of No. 20 South Florida last Tuesday.
“This team is pretty good as just keeping everything on an even keel,” Auriemma 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.”
But he told his team that the streak maybe is more significant than winning a national championship.
The four-time defending national champion Huskies haven’t lost a game since falling in overtime at sixth-ranked Stanford on Nov. 17, 2014.
“I’m not taking for granted at all this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of,” Katie Lou Samuelson said. “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.”
Their first 90-game winning streak broke the Division I record of 88 straight wins by the UCLA men’s basketball team and famed coach John Wooden. That UConn streak also started after a loss to Stanford, in the 2008 national semifinal game, and ended with another loss at Stanford on Dec. 30, 2010.
While the only way UConn will play Stanford this season will be in the NCAA Tournament, the Huskies do have wins this season over second-ranked Baylor, third-ranked Maryland and sixth-ranked Notre Dame — the latter two on the road.
Samuelson scored 28 points and Naphessa Collier added 19 points and a career-high 16 rebounds for UConn. Gabby Williams also had a double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds, along with six assists.
Alicia Froling led SMU (10-7, 1-3) with 16 points and 12 rebounds. The junior from Australia entered the game as the AAC’s top rebound at 10.6 per game.
UConn is 58-0 in American Athletic games in its four seasons since joining that league, plus nine more wins while sweeping through the conference tournament each of the past three seasons.
The Mustangs are 0-7 against UConn, and had lost the first six by an average margin of 51 points.
Samuelson was 11-of-21 shooting and had five 3-pointers while finishing one point short of her matching her career high. She had 10 points in the first quarter, when Collier had nine points and seven rebounds as UConn jumped out to a 26-2 lead.
“What a good team, what a very, very good team,” first-year SMU coach Travis Mays said. “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 championship pedigree, and the culture is there. You go there, they just plug you in and they keep on winning.”
UConn: With another NCAA record in hand, the real focus for the Huskies is getting back to Dallas in about 2 1/2 months for the Final Four and going for their 12th national championship — and fifth in a row. The national semifinal games are March 31 at the American Airlines Center, the home of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, which is about 5 miles from the SMU campus. The national title game is April 2.
SMU: The Lady Mustangs clearly were overwhelmed by UConn, but so are most other teams. But this game is no measure of the progress being made under Mays, who worked under three Hall of Fame coaches before his first head coaching job. SMU went into the game with the league’s best field goal defense (35.6 percent) while allowing 58 points a game, third among the 11 AAC teams.
UConn goes for its 92nd consecutive victory at Tulsa on Tuesday night, then the Huskies go home to play Tulane on Jan. 22.
After three straight losses, the only time this season to lose consecutive games, SMU plays three of its next four games on the road. The Mustangs go to Cincinnati on Tuesday night.