STORRS, Conn. -- Geno Auriemma coached his 1,143rd game with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team Thursday night.
He has had more great memories than anyone. But the top-ranked Huskies' 78-60 American Athletic Conference win over Tulsa before an announced crowd of 7,477 at Gampel Pavilion he'll remember as one he would love to forget.
"If I could have it my way, I would give every person that came tonight their money back. That was the most disgraceful effort I've seen at Connecticut in the 32 years I've been here.
"It doesn't bother me anymore, I see this every day in practice. I'm beyond being bothered. Some days we just hide it better than others. But give Tulsa all the credit in the world. They made shots. They were able to take the ball where they wanted to take it. We won because we have All-Americans and they don't. That's the bottom line."
Azura Stevens (22), Napheesa Collier (19), and Kia Nurse (17) combined for 58 points as UConn (17-0 overall, 6-0 AAC) kept its one-game lead in the AAC race over South Florida and pushed its home winning streak to 72. Katie Lou Samuelson, who was playing with a swollen left eye that she got from taking an elbow from Texas' Audrey-Ann Caron-Goudreau Monday, injured her ankle in the third quarter and had just three points in 15 minutes of action. Auriemma said her status for Sunday's game at Temple is in doubt.
UConn started well enough as Collier scored 10 points and the Huskies led 26-11 after one quarter. But after using just six players against the Longhorns, Auriemma said his starters play too many minutes and that he would find a way to rectify that. His first attempt was to bring in freshmen Megan Walker and Mikayla Coombs, and sophomores Molly Bent and Kyla Irwin to play alongside Stevens to start the second quarter.
And that's when things started to fall apart. The starters watched and only Collier got in during the quarter, with the All-American scoring five points to allow UConn to maintain its 15-point lead at the break.
Collier said the veterans are not frustrated with their younger teammates.
"It's not like it's one group is doing amazing and another group is doing it wrong," she added. "Everyone on this team has things they need to work on. Collectively, as one group, we need to do better."
Nurse, the team leader in minutes played at 33.1 per game, was supportive.
"Anytime your teammates get an opportunity, you're happy for them," Nurse said. "We'd all love to play 40 minutes every game but that's unrealistic with the schedule we play. If we get breaks here and there, I'll take them. You can't have negative feelings."
The starting five returned for the third quarter but only outscored Tulsa (8-11, 2-4) by two to make it 63-46 going to the fourth.
Auriemma then brought back Walker, Irwin, and Bent. With 4:43 left, the Golden Hurricane was within 10 and had the ball. During the media timeout, Auriemma threw his hands in the air and walked out of the huddle.
"Every huddle is the same, every huddle has been the same since the first game of the year," Auriemma said. "It wasn't different today.
"There are no more messages," he added. "Even if I did (have one) they don't listen anyway. We've got a team that does what they want to do when they want to do it and how they want to do it. And if they don't feel like it they don't do it. Then when our All-Americans have a good day, we win. We win because we have more All-Americans than anyone else."
Stevens scored the game's final eight points to account for the final score.
"That wasn't the game that we wanted to display today," Nurse said. "All credit to Tulsa for the way they came out and the way they played. For us, it's a matter of trying to fix the things that we didn't do well today and making sure when we come out we play Connecticut basketball."
UConn had won the first seven meetings against Tulsa by an average of 48.9 points, with none closer than 38.
"We have to fight more," Collier said. "We need to do a better job. Tulsa did what they wanted to do, they shot threes and got in the lane. That's the frustration, we need to play at a different level. We need to play our game."
Gabby Williams, playing with a sore hip that Auriemma said she appeared to aggravate in the fourth quarter, had seven points, five rebounds, five assists to one turnover, and six steals in 25 minutes. Crystal Dangerfield, who has been dealing with shin splints, played 15 minutes and had three points.
But the candidates Auriemma gave an extended look to Thursday night totaled 68 minutes on the floor -- Bent (19), Walker (16), Coombs (16), Irwin (11), and Lexi Gordon (6) -- and finished with one field goal, a Bent drive to the basket.
"The guys that don't play much? There's a reason they don't play much," Auriemma said. "I'm not looking anymore. There's no place to look. In fact we might go from six to five rather than six to seven or eight. You can't give up more layups than Z gives up. It's not possible.
"I'll keep giving them chances. We need a lot more close games. I'll give them as much time as they need. I'm trying to save them from themselves. This is what they do every day in practice. I'm trying not to expose them on the court."
Shug Dickson had 17 points for Tulsa while Erika Wakefield added 13 points and nine assists. Thursday night's game is the only meeting between the teams in the regular season.
The Golden Hurricane probably felt better about leaving Gampel Pavilion than the Huskies did.
"It ended kind of early, it didn't go into overtime," Auriemma said. "We didn't need to watch five more minutes of that. I don't know of one positive that came out of tonight."