COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Perhaps the best prediction Geno Auriemma has made in his tenure as coach of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team came in March, 1991. Even though his Huskies were 0-2 in NCAA tournament play going into the 1991 event, Auriemma said that if UConn -- the No. 3 seed in the East Regional -- beat Toledo in its tourney opener, it would go on to the Final Four. And that's what happened.
But while it seems like he's been able to do little wrong, particularly in guiding the Huskies to 11 national championships, Auriemma isn't always right.
Last summer, he took a look at the non-league schedule the 2016-17 Huskies would face and predicted they would go 7-6 in it.
"That's what I thought, or 8-5 maybe," Auriemma said. "Maybe 10-3? I don't know, something. What do you want me to tell you? I don't have an answer for you. I wish I did."
For those scoring at home, UConn has not lost six non-league games in a season during Auriemma's time in Storrs. Then again, the 32nd-year coach had never put together a more difficult non-league slate.
But with the top-ranked Huskies' 87-81 win over No. 4 Maryland at the sold-out Xfinity Center Thursday, UConn is 12-0 with one non-league game left -- against South Carolina at Gampel Pavilion on Feb. 13.
"They (the experts) said we didn't have any returning All-Americans and no preseason All-Americans," Auriemma said. "But maybe right now our team that you're seeing, we have guys playing like current All-Americans."
UConn has seven wins against ranked opponents, including six against teams that have been in the top 10 at some point in the first six weeks if the season.
The Huskies have beaten the preseason favorites in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big Ten, and the Big 12. They are well on their way to securing a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed with the closest regional to Storrs set for Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.
"We've even surprised ourselves a little bit with what we have shown what we can do and the plays we can make under the pressure we've been under," UConn forward Gabby Williams said. "It feels great. It is so satisfying for everybody, because everybody is involved. Last year we could have one, two, or three guys take over a game. This year, five or six guys all had to make a great play at some point."
UConn will enter Sunday's American Athletic Conference opener at Central Florida with an 87-game winning streak. If the Huskies continue their winning ways they'll tie their own NCAA record of 90 against South Florida on Jan. 10 and set a new mark on Jan. 14 at SMU.
Auriemma has downplayed the current run from the start of the season.
"When we went through it last time it was exciting, it was fun," he said. "Everybody was talking about it all the time. Our kids were aware of it toward the end. They knew exactly what was going on. We had some older players on the team that had been through a lot, and they felt like they were entitled to it.
"I think this team is young enough, and they have not been a part of that many of them that it is not something we talk about. And it's not something that I put any value on anymore. People can say, 'Wouldn't it be great to break your own record?' Yeah, if it got me anything."
Maryland will be happy if it does not have to play against Saniya Chong again.
During the 2015 Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden, Chong stopped a Terrapins' rally with 40.3 seconds left as her three-pointer started a closing 8-2 run in an 83-73 win.
On Thursday, Maryland had cut a 19-point deficit to six. But with 48 seconds to go, Chong nailed a three from in front of the UConn bench to give the Huskies some breathing room.
It was Kia Nurse's penetration and kick out that got the junior assists on both plays.
"It was the same shot and the same pass just on the opposite side of the floor," Nurse said. "I kept thinking, deja vu."
Chong finished with 10 points and five assists to no turnovers. The senior leads the AAC in assist-to-turnover ratio at a school record pace of plus-6.0. She also contributed her first blocked shot of the season when she swatted away a 3-point try by Shatori Walker-Kimbrough in the last 10 seconds.
"When she went to shoot it that was exactly what ran through my mind," Auriemma said. "It's like she's supposed to make it. Saniya played well. She needs more playing time."
There was one difference in the two plays. A year ago, Nurse drove to the hoop while being defended by Chloe Pavlech. On Thursday, Pavlech was on the UConn bench as she is serving an internship as a Program Specialist for the UConn Division of Athletics.
Pavlech played in 107 games for the Terrapins and helped them reach two Final Fours. The last game of her career was played at the Xfinity Center -- a loss to Washington in the NCAA tournament second round last March.
"It was probably more bizarre for her today coming into this kind of environent," Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. "It looked odd seeing her in blue, for sure. But I'm so proud of her next step and helping them out. Chloe's got a bright future ahead of her."
Katie Lou Samuelson had a four-point play in UConn's win at LSU on Nov. 20. But the sophomore guard admitted she's never seen a team have two four-point plays in a single game like the Huskies had on Thursday.
Nurse had the first one with 3:28 left in the first half to break the game's final tie. She took an inbounds pass from Samuelson and hit the trey as Maryland's Kristen Confroy hit her arm.
Samuelson netted the second one 2:16 into the third quarter as she took a lead pass from Saniya Chong and found nothing but net as she was sent to the ground by the Terrapins' Blair Watson. Samuelson let out a scream and clenched her fists.
Who had the better one?
"I liked Kia's because I could go celebrate for her," Samuelson said.
"Well I have to be biased and say mine," Nurse said with a smile. "But Lou's celebration was better because I didn't know how I wanted to celebrate mine. It was an awkward moment."