COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Its NCAA record winning streak was snapped on March 31, but another run that pre-dates the birth of any current University of Connecticut women's basketball player was on the line at Nationwide Arena Sunday.
The Huskies, coming off their loss to Mississippi State that ended their 111-game streak and season in the Final Four semifinals, has not dropped back-to-back games since losing the final three of the 1992-93 season. The oldest Huskies -- transfers Azura Stevens and Batouly Camara, along with senior Kia Nurse -- were not born until February, 1996.
And Stanford, which ended UConn's 90-game winning streak in 2010 and its 47-game winning streak in 2014, would get the shot at putting another run to rest. But the Cardinal weren't playing in Maples Pavilion and they do not have the talent and athleticism of those past teams that beat the Huskies.
This streak is still alive and it was never in doubt.
Crystal Dangerfield had a career high 24 points and Katie Lou Samuelson scored 19 of her 21 points in a decisive first half as No. 1 UConn routed 10th-ranked Stanford 78-53 in the first game of the Countdown to Columbus doubleheader here. The Huskies, with their 22nd consecutive season-opening win, have now gone 887 games without back-to-back losses and are 58-0 following a loss since the start of the 1993-94 season.
"I don't have the answer to some of this stuff why we do what we do, why things that have happened happen," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "We try to show up and play. It was a long time ago, that last game. But even when we lose during the season and we have a game coming up we're pretty good at putting that last game behind us and moving on to the next thing. We try not to carry anything with us. That's a big part of it. We have guys who like to win. And when we lose, they don't take it very well."
It's the eighth time UConn has beaten a ranked team to keep its back-to-back streak alive and the fourth time it's beaten a team in the Top 10. The highest-ranked team the Huskies got past coming off a loss was No. 4 Duke in the 1998-99 opener in San Jose, California. They also beat No. 7 Notre Dame in South Bend on Jan. 12, 2005, and No. 7 Rutgers at the XL Center in Hartford on Feb. 3, 2005.
The closest game following a loss was a one-point win at Rutgers on Jan. 27, 1999, though South Florida took UConn to overtime on Dec. 1, 2004, with the streak on the line. The Huskies scored all 10 points of the extra session to win at Gampel Pavilion.
"They've had losses and everything, but Coach and CD (associate head coach Chris Dailey) have done a good job of creating a program where we bounce back and we're not going to let a loss define what's next. We'll learn from it and move on quickly."
The Huskies had to wait more than seven months to get back in action. They were ready.
UConn never trailed though the game was tied twice. At 4-4, the Huskies took command with a 14-0 run that included two 3-pointers and a steal and layup from Dangerfield.
"I wasn't happy with us trading baskets and I didn't want it to turn into that kind of game," UConn All-American Gabby Williams said. "It felt like we were playing their game. I wanted to find ways to go stop-score, stop-score, stop score."
It was 26-10 after one quarter. Stanford managed just one field goal in the second quarter and Samuelson took over. The All-American had 15 points in the period, scoring in a number of different ways, as UConn closed the half with a 21-2 run for a 49-14 halftime lead.
Samuelson -- whose older sisters, Bonnie (2015) and Karlie (2017) played and graduated from Stanford -- had waited three years to face the Cardinal. She had made an official visit to Stanford the weekend before announcing her commitment to UConn in May, 2014. She signed her letter of intent five days before the last meeting between the schools, an 88-86 Stanford overtime win on Nov. 17, 2014.
"It was different," Samuelson said. "I'm definitely bummed I didn't get the opportunity to play against Karlie. But it was fun and we were all kind of playing for Kia and Gabby. They were the only two that were on the team that lost that year."
The Huskies could have used someone like Dangerfield that night at Maples Pavilion.
The sophomore point guard beat her previous best of 19 points set against Baylor a year ago. She was 6-for-7 from 3-point land and also added six rebounds, three assists to no turnovers, and four steals in her team-high 34 minutes.
"When you look at our team, by adding another player of her caliber and the way she plays, that changes the makeup of what we're trying to do," Auriemma said. "She is just so much more offensive minded. She creates a lot of stuff for herself and for others. Today was a perfect example of how Crystal has been practicing almost every day since school started. I'm not surprised by what she did today. Some other things surprised me, but this is what I've come to expect from Crystal."
"I was anxious, couldn't sleep last night," Dangerfield added. "I just wanted to come out here and play. I'm going to get home and try to build on that. The other four in the game trusted me and I'm trying to learn from them. I want to figure out what's going to work. We had a great first half but we have to continue doing that in the second half. But it's a good start."
The second half was one to forget as Stanford (0-2) outscored the Huskies by one in the third quarter and nine in the fourth quarter. UConn's biggest lead was 42 and the closest the Cardinal got was the final margin.
It won't be forgotten when the Huskies get back to practice.
"Going in, everyone was excited and had all the adrenaline going," Williams said. "In the second half, with the score being what it was, we relaxed so much. That's not what great teams do."
"Like most kids, the game's over so why do we have to kill ourselves," Auriemma said. "And I think we were tired. Well, how can you be tired first game of the year? We're tired, I can tell. I can feel it. This week we didn't have a great week of preparation and it showed up. This week will be better."
Williams finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Stevens, in her regular season debut with the Huskies, had eight points, eight rebounds, and three blocked shots. Among the freshmen, Megan Walker had the only basket.
DiJonai Carrington had 21 points for Stanford. Brittany McPhee, the Cardinal's leading returning scorer from last season and their top scorer in their loss to Ohio State Fridaynight, had just nine on 3-for-12 shooting.
The Huskies return to action Friday night when they entertain Stanford's Pac-12 Conference archrival California-Berkeley at Gampel Pavilion (SNY, 7 p.m.).
In the second game of the Countdown to Columbus twinbill, Louisville topped host Ohio State 95-90 in overtime as junior guard Asia Durr had a career high 47 points. The 2018 Final Four will be held at Nationwide Arena March 30 and April 1.