TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Imani Wright's shot from 3-point land in front of the Florida State bench went up, and when it came down, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team would have a gritty win or its 75-game winning streak would be over.
But while it was in the air, the Huskies were helpless.
"I thought every horrible thing ever," UConn forward Napheesa Collier said. "(Wright) shot it and she had a great game. I was glad if she would miss a shot, it would be that last one."
No. 3 UConn overcame a seven-point third-quarter deficit -- the most it has trailed during the second half during the winning streak -- to take an eight-point lead in the final three minutes. The Huskies then survived the No. 12 Seminoles' final surge to take a 78-76 season opening victory before 4,753 fans at the Tucker Center on Monday.
"It's going to be like this for the next five months," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Yeah, I'm sure there are teams we'll overwhelm with our talent. I get that. But there are an awful lot of teams we're playing this year, this team being one of them, that are maybe more athletic than we are, a little quicker and a little tougher.
"A lot of the things we're used to doing ... obviously, we'll learn from it and everyone will give us their best shot. They want to pay us back for everything that we've done to every one of these teams the last 10 years. This particular team, some of them are responsible for those, but not all of them. Now they're going to take the brunt of it."
UConn (1-0) pushed its overall winning streak to 76 and its run in season openers to 21. It doesn't get easier with No. 2 Baylor coming to Gampel Pavilion on Thursday (SNY, 7:30 p.m.). The Bears (2-0) rolled past No. 9 UCLA 84-70 on Monday.
Collier led the Huskies with a career-high 28 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. Her fourth rejection with 8 seconds left on a Shakayla Thomas drive inside kept UConn in front by one. Her previous best from a year ago was 14 points.
The St. Peters, Missouri, native knows how to make plays to win games, having won three state titles in high school, a trio of gold medals for USA Basketball and, of course, last year's national championship as a freshman.
"It's not so much my high school experience, but having one year of college under my belt is really helpful." Collier said. "I'm playing more confidently than I did last year because I know what to expect. I've been in these situations before. That's helped."
She was 10-for-14 shooting from the floor, which include a 3-pointer, and 7-for-9 at the foul line in a career-high 39 minutes.
"The things about Napheesa, number one, is she may be one of the most unique players we've had in awhile and tonight was an example of all the things that make her unique," Auriemma said. "There isn't any classic things about her. She's not your classic ballhandler or shooter or post-up player. But every way you think of someone being a scorer, she has it. There are so many aspects of the game she has already. We talked about it all last week, 'How do we get Napheesa the ball as often as possible? I don't think there's anyone that could guard her tonight?' "
Saniya Chong scored 12 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter and added six assists with no turnovers for UConn. Katie Lou Samuelson finished with 14 points. Wright led the Seminoles (1-1) with 25 points with Brittany Brown (16), Thomas (14) and Ivey Slaughter (12) joining her in double figures. Florida State played without injured senior point guard Leticia Romero (hamstring).
Florida State led 17-16 after one quarter and 34-30 at halftime, the fourth time UConn trailed in the second half since the winning streak started two years ago.
"Some of the looks on their faces in the first half was like the world is going to end," Auriemma said.
A three-point play by Brown made it a seven-point game. The previous biggest second-half deficit during the winning streak was two against Maryland last year.
How did the Huskies respond? Chong and Collier scored four points each, Gabby Williams hit the first 3-pointer of her career and Samuelson nailed another trey to cap a 14-2 run and put UConn up by five.
"We came together and pushed through it, even though it was a challenge from beginning to end," Chong said. "We never gave up. We had each other's backs and were able to finish it off."
Florida State tied it four times but never edged in front. A Chong 3 made it 73-65 with 2:34 to go. The Seminoles, though, stayed with it and got within 75-74 on a Wright 3-pointer with 43 seconds left. Collier made two free throws, then Brown made the first two of a three-shot foul and missed the third. Butler couldn't grab the rebound and Florida State kept possession.
Thomas tried to drive but was stuffed by Collier, and Crystal Dangerfield came up with the loose ball.
"I was thinking that I had to do whatever I could for one play, make one play and give all I had," Collier said.
Dangerfield made one free throw to make it 78-76 with 6.2 seconds remaining, but missed the second setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
"Nerves, definitely," Samuelson said. "But I saw from my angle it was going to be short. I was worried about securing the rebound. Once it ended it was a relief. We made a lot of mistakes at the end but a lot of big plays, too."
The Huskies had lost eight straight games that were decided by five or fewer points or in overtime dating back to a 68-63 win over Georgetown in the 2011 NCAA tournament Sweet 16, Maya Moore's senior year.
UConn has also won 33 straight games against Atlantic Coast Conference teams dating back to a loss to North Carolina on Jan. 15, 2007.
None of those games were like Monday's.
"I wish we were sitting here obviously on the other side of this having won it," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said. "We put it all on the line and we had a chance."
Next the Huskies will take their chances with Baylor after sweating one out.
"When we had to make a play, we made it," Auriemma said. "When we had to make a bucket, we got one. When we had to get a turnover, we got one. When we needed to get a blocked shot at the end, we got one. A lot of good things came out of it and we'll see from here."