It was a delay of game that the University of Connecticut women's basketball team was happy to accept. A year ago, the Huskies were looking into scheduling a homecoming game for Sparks, Nevada, native Gabby Williams, who was on her way to an All-American junior season. The only problem was that UConn's 13-game non-league schedule -- which included the recently-added Nike PK80 Invitational in Eugene, Oregon -- was filled.
Enter Seton Hall and coach Tony Bozzella.
UConn and Seton Hall had signed a deal to start a home-and-home series during the 2017-18 season. But the Huskies reached out to Bozzella and the Pirates, who agreed to push back the series by one year giving UConn the opening to schedule Tuesday night's game against Nevada in Reno.
"I'm sure it wasn't easy for Tony to work through the scheduling hardship that this caused," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "But I am very grateful that he was so accommodating."
For Bozzella, who is in his fifth season at Seton Hall following stops at Iona and LIU-Brooklyn, it was an easy call.
"When they asked us to push it back, it was a no-brainer once I heard the reason," Bozzella said. "We also love to find ways to get our girls homecoming games and I think that is one of the best parts of a student-athlete experience."
Williams had 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, and five steals in 34 minutes Tuesday night as No. 1 UConn rolled past Nevada 88-57 before a school and state record crowd of 7,815 at the Lawlor Events Center.
Putting together the homecoming game for Williams, once the Huskies had the schedule opening, was easy.
"Right after Gabby signed with us, Nevada reached out and made it known that it would be more than willing to schedule a homecoming game for her," Auriemma said. "UNR is in a beautiful setting and the trip to Reno was even more enjoyable because we all felt the excitement that surrounded the game." The series with Seton Hall brings together two old Big East acquaintances.
The Huskies and Pirates played their first game on Dec. 23, 1978, and played as league rivals from 1982 through 2013. Seton Hall won the first six of the series, but UConn dominated the final three decades to take a 49-10 advantage. The Huskies' 29-game winning streak against the Pirates is the longest against any opponent in school history and they've also won 44 of the last 45 games. Auriemma owns a 46-2 record against Seton Hall.
Bozzella, though, has led a Pirates' resurgence after taking over for Anne Donovan. The 1989 Seton Hall graduate has compiled an 87-49 record and guided Seton Hall to three postseason appearances in four years. After advancing to the 2014 WNIT, the Pirates received a bid to the 2015 NCAA tournament -- their first NCAA trip in 20 years -- and followed up with a second NCAA tournament appearance in 2016.
Coincidentally, Seton Hall played both of its NCAA tournament games under Bozzella at Gampel Pavilion, falling to Duquesne in 2016 and to Rutgers in 2015. Bozzella has been a head coach against the Huskies once -- a first-round NCAA loss with LIU-Brooklyn in 2001.
The Pirates will take a 4-1 record into Thursday night's home game with Marist at Walsh Gymnasium. "Geno and his staff have always been great friends and mentors to me since I got into coaching, so it was really an honor when they reached out to us to start up this series," Bozzella said. "I'm of a firm belief that playing a program like UConn is beneficial to your program in more ways than one, so we were excited to get them on our schedule -- especially since they will be coming to play us in our gym as well."
Kia Nurse went to the west coast with the Huskies but her 3-point shot went south. The senior guard was 0-for-4 from long range at UCLA on Nov. 21 and was 0-for-4 in the first half against Michigan State last Saturday.
But once her 3-point shot caught up with her, she hasn't missed.
Nurse connected on a trey with 5:06 to go in the third quarter against the Spartans and hit her next try at the third-quarter buzzer. She then went 8-for-8 from behind the arc in the win over Nevada Tuesday night, the second-most makes without a miss in UConn history.
Her 10 consecutive makes also ties a school record shared by Katie Lou Samuelson and Caroline Doty. Samuelson was a NCAA-record 10-for-10 from distance in UConn's win over South Florida in the American Athletic Conference tournament final at Mohegan Sun Arena last March 6. She had missed her final try in the semifinals against Central Florida and missed her first try against Albany in the NCAA first round. In 2008, Doty made her final 3-pointer at Brigham Young, then went 6-for-6 against Oklahoma and 3-for-3 against Holy Cross in games at Gampel Pavilion before missing her first attempt against Penn State in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.
The NCAA record for consecutive made 3-pointers is 14 shared by Deana Lansing of Portland (1996), Lauren Howell of Mount St. Mary's (2008), and Kelsey Jacobson of Florida Gulf Coast (2012).
Nurse, who led the AAC in 3-point shooting percentage as a junior, against tops the league at 58.6 percent from behind the arc. Overall, she is shooting 56.9 percent and leads the Huskies (6-0) in scoring at 16.2 points per game.
UConn placed six players -- seniors Williams and Nurse, juniors Samuelson, Napheesa Collier, and Azura Stevens, and sophomore Crystal Dangerfield -- on the 50-player Naismith Trophy preseason watch list announced by the Atlanta Tipoff Club on Wednesday.
The Huskies' six selections led the way. Notre Dame, which faces UConn at the XL Center in Hartford on Sunday, had four candidates in Marina Mabrey, Arike Ogunbowale, Jessica Shepard, and Jackie Young. Ohio State (Linnae Harper, Stephanie Mavunga, Kelsey Mitchell) and Mississippi State (Tierra McCowan, Victoria Vivians, Morgan Williams) had three each.
Williams, Nurse, Samuelson, and Collier were also named to the 25-player Wade Trophy watch list by the WBCA Wednesday.