STORRS, Conn. -- It was the one game of the young season the University of Connecticut women's basketball would like to forget, but should not.
After opening up with four games in nine days, the Huskies had a week off before playing Chattanooga on Nov. 29. While UConn picked up an easy 80-43 win, its energy and effort left a lot to be desired, and coach Geno Auriemma questioned its toughness.
"We came out against Chattanooga like they would just roll over and die," UConn forward Gabby Williams said Sunday. "The coaches have told us that teams won't lose to us, we have to beat them. We have to go in with that mentality Monday."
After playing four games in an 11-day span ending Dec. 11, the top-ranked Huskies had the rest of last week off for fall semester final exams. They return to action and the XL Center on Monday at 7 p.m. to take on No. 12 Ohio State knowing a repeat of what happened against the Mocs won't get the job done.
"We've learned from our mistakes from the last time," UConn forward Napheesa Collier said. "We're trying to stay focused and locked in on the game Monday especially since we've had some time off."
That time off was spent dealing with finals as well as resting their bodies. UConn (9-0) has three players -- Kia Nurse (34.9), Katie Lou Samuelson (32.3) and Collier (31.7) -- averaging at least 30 minutes per game with Williams just missing the plateau at 28.7.
This isn't completely new for the Huskies. With their 40-0 national championship team of 2014, the five main starters averaged between Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis' 29.2 minutes and Stefanie Dolson's 32.3 minutes.
"I remember when we had Stef and Kelly Faris, we had like five or maybe six players," Auriemma said. "But they were older and they knew how to manage a game. These guys are little bit younger, so I have to help them manage it a little bit better.
"You always want to be in a situation where you're playing people because they have earned the right to play. They've worked hard enough. They've figured it out and they know how to play together. If you're struggling, you want to be able to give people a breather and take them out of the struggle. People say you only learn how to play by playing. But you also learn by sitting there and watching. Sometimes, the more you're forced to sit and watch, the more there is a fire burning to want to play. Right now, I would love to be able to give some of our guys a little rest. I would love for them to be able to play a lot more aggressively and not worry about a foul here and there. But unfortunately that's not where we are."
UConn will be down a player Monday night as senior guard Saniya Chong will miss her second straight game due to concussion-like symptoms. She was hurt in the second half against Notre Dame on Dec. 7 when she was hit in the face by an inadvertent elbow. While Chong played the final 1:41 against the Irish, she did not make the trip to Kansas State for a Dec. 11 game.
Ohio State (9-3) will certainly try to make UConn's lack of depth an issue as it bids to break the Huskies' 84-game winning streak.
"We don't have a lot to begin with and it's kind of a big problem," Auriemma said. "We had a conversation with some of those young guys on the bench and said, 'We've got to figure out a way to get you involved.' I think they want to be involved but if you watch them every day you just kind of shake your head and go, 'Oh, boy.' So you might have to just close your eyes, throw them out there anyway and see what happens."
At Kansas State, Auriemma used Natalie Butler for 16 minutes off the bench while freshmen Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin didn't get in until 1:29 remained.
Ohio State (9-3) has 10 players averaging double-figure minutes and that doesn't include Kentucky transfer Linnae Harper, who became eligible on Friday and had 15 points against Alabama State. The leading scorer is All-American junior guard Kelsey Mitchell.
The Huskies opened last season against the Buckeyes in Columbus and coasted to a 100-56 win. Mitchell, the fastest player in NCAA history to reach 2,000 points, picked up two fouls in the opening 2:30 and never got things rolling for herself as she finished with just eight points.
"When I process last year's UConn game you basically take away that as a team we didn't do well, first of all," Mitchell said last month. "At the end of the day it is five players for UConn and five players for OSU, and you have to take away the things UConn did and how effective it was and what we didn't do. You start with that, and then you evaluate yourself later on. I don't think I did well at all. You just have to be honest with yourself at the end of the day."
Ohio State is averaging 90.5 points per game overall, but that drops to 78.5 points against ranked opponents. The Buckeyes have lost three of four to top-25 competition.
The Huskies have not given up more than 65 points since Nov. 14 at Florida State.
"We've gotten better at taking away the things that teams like to do," Williams said. "We have to pay attention to the scout and stay locked in to what we want to do. We're going to try and take away the things they like to do."
For the Buckeyes, one of those things is to get the ball to Mitchell, who leads the team in shots by a wide margin.
"She will shoot from anywhere at anytime," Collier said. "It will be a challenge for us and we need to stay on her."
"They are a great challenge. Their guards are explosive," Nurse added. "They can score in a hurry and get a lot of points. It's a great challenge especially for the young guys who are going to experience something that quick that will require a lot of energy on their part."
Monday's game is also the first of three straight against Big Ten opponents for UConn. The Huskies have a quick turnaround as they play at Nebraska on Wednesday. Then after a break for the Christmas holiday, they visit No. 4 Maryland on Dec. 29 before opening American Athletic Conference play against Central Florida in Orlando on New Year's Day. UConn has won 15 straight against Big Ten opponents since a loss to Michigan State on Dec. 29, 2004.
UConn isn't looking past Ohio State.
"As a team, we've done a good job of focusing on us and focusing on what we need to do," Nurse said. "Something that has really become evident is that we find a way to get things done. Every game has had its own challenges and different styles of play, different people to guard and different scoring issues. But we have found a way to get it done every single game, and that's something I'm extremely proud of."