STORRS, Conn. -- There will never be a 100-game winning streak (or whatever number the streak ends at) banner in Gampel Pavilion as long as Geno Auriemma is the University of Connecticut women's basketball coach.
While there was a championship feel Monday night following the Huskies' 100th consecutive win, no title was on the line. With March two weeks away, 100 percent of their attention is on continuing their championship reigns.
That's how you put up a banner at Gampel Pavilion.
"This is a February game, and we have a long road ahead of us still as far as the goals we have set for ourselves this year," UConn junior forward Gabby Williams said after getting a career high 26 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and four steals in No. 1 UConn's 66-55 win over sixth-ranked South Carolina at sold-out Gampel Pavilion. "But it felt good tonight."
UConn (25-0) begins a final four-game stretch of American Athletic Conference contests at Tulane on Saturday (SNY, 7 p.m.). The Huskies (12-0 AAC) have a 2.5-game lead over Temple (9-2) and three-game lead over South Florida (9-3 following an upset by Central Florida Tuesday night) in their bid for a fourth straight regular season title. They'll begin their run at a fourth consecutive AAC Tournament crown on March 4 with a quarterfinal game at Mohegan Sun Arena.
Winning championships will take a back seat to winning streaks.
"I hope we can focus on the season and what's coming up next and whatever is in store for this team," Auriemma said after No. 100. "Get it over with and move on to the next thing, which is more important in the big scheme of things for these players anyway. This 100-win streak isn't theirs, but if we win the national championship that's all theirs. That means a lot more if we're able to do that down the road than what happened tonight.
"Tonight was they carried the torch across the finish line, so-to-speak, to 100. It was a relay. They took the last baton and they crossed the finish line. If we win a national championship, it's all theirs start to finish. They earned it. So I want to focus on trying to do that instead of having to worry about all that other stuff. This stuff is neat, don't get me wrong. It's a lot of fun. Everybody gets a kick out of -- our players, our former players, the fans, everybody. So I think that's great."
It took about 45 minutes to clear the court Monday night as the Huskies and some of their former stars -- including Breanna Stewart, Maya Moore, Tina Charles, and Sue Bird -- celebrated together, took pictures, and did media interviews.
They'd like their next reunion to be April 2 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, site of the NCAA Final Four.
"It's a great feeling especially having all the former players come back and be around for this," UConn guard Kia Nurse said. "It's a hard thing to do. It's a big number, and it's definitely something that will be memorable for the rest of our lives.
"Today, the 100 and all the stuff that was surrounding it was kind of stuff that we don't necessarily put on ourselves. It's something that comes along with the game and where we were. It was just another game for us once the ball was tipped off, but it was a good one to be a part of."
The Huskies won it even though Nurse was limited to 18 minutes and three points due to a right ankle injury and leading scorer Katie Lou Samuelson had just six points as she struggled with her shot and with the Gamecocks' defense.
UConn placed just two players in double figures, but Williams and sophomore forward Napheesa Collier (18 points, nine rebounds before fouling out with 3:01 to go) were the best players in the court. They led the Huskies to edges in rebounds (38-36), second-chance points (16-12), and points in the paint (34-26) where taller South Carolina figured to have the advantage.
Much like Stewart and Morgan Tuck did against the Gamecocks in the previous two meetings between the teams, Williams and Collier ran around and by South Carolina 6-foot-5 All-American junior forward A'ja Wilson and 6-foot-4 senior center Alaina Coates and wore them down.
"We took it possession by possession," Williams said. "We always say that to beat us, you have to run a marathon. That's how we try to make these games, long and hard for our opponent. So I think going into the third quarter we were trying to get into a rhythm of score-stop-score, score-stop-score, and the next thing you know we are up by however much."
The Huskies closed the first half with a 11-2 run to take a 35-29 lead at the break and a second 11-2 run to end the third quarter made it 51-39. Nurse's only score, a 3-pointer with 4:22 left, gave UConn an insurmountable 16-point lead and the countdown to 100 was on.
UConn also got a boost from freshman Crystal Dangerfield off the bench (five points and seven assists in 30 minutes) while senior guard Saniya Chong did what she's been doing all season (six points, four assists to no turnovers in 38 minutes) and a little more.
"Sometimes it's just meant to be," Auriemma said. "I didn't go into the game with as much confidence as say the Maryland game or at Notre Dame or some of those others games. I thought tonight's game was going to be a really, really tough game to win under the best of circumstances. I could see happening what happened.
"I've said to the people who cover our team all year long that we are one injury or a couple fouls away from just being average at best. But it was meant to be. You could see the signs, right? Saniya took two charges. That's like Halley's Comet. Lou got an offensive rebound and got fouled. Come on. Forget global warming, that's the biggest phenomena that I've seen. You can't explain it. It's like it's meant to be."