ORLANDO, Fla. -- Coach Geno Auriemma's accomplishments with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team have earned him a spot in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.
The list is long, starting with the 11 national championships, including six perfect seasons.
Veteran Maryland coach Brenda Frese, however, believes that Auriemma may be doing the best job of his career in this his 32nd year. But Frese, who coached the Terrapins to the 2006 NCAA title, also knows a coach's success is due to their players.
Top-ranked UConn improved to 12-0 and pushed its winning streak to 87 by holding off No. 4 Maryland 87-81 at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland. Katie Lou Samuelson had 23 points as all five UConn starters reached double figures.
"The sophomores have played beyond their years when you look at what Katie Lou and Napheesa (Collier) have done," Frese said. "It starts there with those two. They have been really consistent. And when you make other kids try to beat you, like we tried, Kia Nurse steps up, Gabby Williams does her thing, and Saniya Chong is willing to take important drives. They're such a complete team. It's incredible to watch them because they play so hard on every possession."
Some things don't change.
But while there is still one non-league game left with South Carolina on Feb. 13, it's time for the Huskies to turn their attention to American Athletic Conference play. They open their 16-game league schedule -- down two games from the three previous years -- and begin their quest for a fourth straight regular season crown on Sunday when they take on Central Florida at CFE Arena.
The game will be broadcast by SNY starting at 1 p.m.
"I don't know if we've proved something but we have shown something even to ourselves that we can be a great team and we can do a lot of great things," Samuelson said. "It just gives us a lot of confidence going into the New Year, but we know we have a lot more we want to accomplish. We can't just get caught up in what we've done. But if you look back on it, we have really enjoyed every moment we've had. It has been a lot of fun."
Part of that fun has been playing with a chip on their shoulder and proving to people -- and their coach -- that they're better and tougher than anyone thought they would be.
"It's extremely satisfying for our team because of the amount of time we've put in, the confidence that we're instilling in each other, and for the growth that we've had from day one," Nurse said. "It's exciting to see how we're performing, how we're jelling, and how we're playing together."
Against Maryland (12-1), the Huskies turned a five-point edge into a 19-point bulge by scoring the first 14 points of the third quarter. They then made the plays in the fourth quarter that they needed to keep the Terrapins at bay.
"We've put ourselves in pretty much every situation already this year, and we know what we're going to face no matter what," Samuelson said. "It builds our confidence to know what we've done every game. Coach was saying we kind of hold ourselves to higher standards so we expect things out of ourselves. When you expect more and do more, good things tend to happen more."
UConn also goes into league play with an opportunity to smash its own NCAA record 90-game winning streak.
If the Huskies get by UCF Sunday and East Carolina at home Wednesday, they'll go for a tie against South Florida at the XL Center Jan. 10 with the potential record breaker against SMU at Moody Coliseum on Jan. 14.
"We're just chasing every game that we play that day," Nurse said. "Now we're chasing the UCF game."
UCF (10-3) hasn't played the type of schedule UConn has as the Knights are rebuilding under first-year coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, who turned Albany into the dominant force in the America East.
One of her last moves in setting up her staff was giving former UConn All-American Nykesha Sales her first coaching job as an assistant.
"I hired people I knew, had played for me, had worked for me, and knew my philosophy," Abrahamson-Henderson said. "That last position was something that I took a lot of time on to find. I had a lot of calls. I talked to the coaching staff at UConn about several of their players actually. It took so long to make that last hire.
"But one day I walked into our practice gym. Nykesha lives in Orlando and my staff, they're still all ballers. They were all in their playing and I looked and thought, 'Hey, that's Nykesha Sales.' She started running towards me and I said hello and I thought, 'This must be a sign for me.' She introduced herself and was very humble. I asked if she was still interested in a job and she said she thought I had filled it. It evolved from there. I have winners on my staff in terms of basketball and life. Nykesha is that. She embodies that every day."
UCF had matched its best start in 32 years before dropping its last game against UC Davis. The Knights' top players are guards Zykira Lewis and Aliyah Gregory, both of whom often work with Sales.
Abrahamson-Henderson believes UCF has the foundation to be a contender for a NCAA tournament berth but it will take time.
"It will take exactly what it took at Albany," Abrahamson-Henderson said. "I know it's a different level here. But we practiced at that level every day at Albany and we practiced that way when I was at Missouri State. Every day we're going to train our players how to win and how to compete on every play and every possession. We're going to take it one day at a time. We're not focusing on the future, just on today."
That philosophy works for UConn. The Huskies arrived here Friday so they get a little break from winter before going back to work Sunday.
"I love warm weather," Nurse said. "But I'm excited for another game."