STORRS, Conn. -- Breanna Stewart was sitting maybe 20 feet away from where she would have been standing a year ago.
So close, yet so far.
The three-time national Player of the Year was part of the first 75 games of the University of Connecticut women's basketball team's record winning streak. Monday night she was a spectator at Gampel Pavilion for the first time since her senior year of high school and she watched the top-ranked Huskies make it 100 in a row with a 66-55 win over No. 6 South Carolina.
"It was very important to me to be here," Stewart said. "If I was in the country, I was coming to this game.
"It's been hard watching, but I'm enjoying rooting for them and cheering them on. I'm just being a proud alumni."
Stewart, who led UConn to an unprecedented four straight national championships, was among a group of distinguished former players in attendance Monday night, including several Huskies of Honor members such as Sue Bird, Maya Moore, Bria Hartley, and Morgan Tuck.
"It's a great feeling especially having all the former players come back and be around for it," UConn guard Kia Nurse said.
Stewart was the first overall selection of the Seattle Storm in the 2016 WNBA Draft last April. She helped Seattle earn a playoff berth and in the process was voted the WNBA's Rookie of the Year.
Last summer she was a member of coach Geno Auriemma's United States Olympic team that won the gold medal at the Games in Rio de Janeiro.
She signed to play this winter for Shanghai in the Chinese basketball league. She was averaging 31.4 points and 10.1 rebounds for Shanghai before spraining the posterior cruciate ligament in her right knee on Jan. 7. She did not need surgery but returned to the United States to do rehabilitation.
The one positive from the injury is it allowed her to be here Monday night. Before the game she received a huge roar from the 10,167 in attendance when she was shown on the video board. Afterwards, she was posing for pictures with the student section.
There was no place she'd rather be.
"This just goes to show how much we made an impact on women's basketball and at UConn," Stewart said. "To be part of the first 75 of the 100 ... That's why we come to UConn, to do amazing things like this."
Nurse entered Monday night averaging 18.3 minutes of action -- in the first half.
But an injured right ankle got the better of the junior as she was limited to just 18 minutes total against the Gamecocks.
She declined to comment about how much the ankle is troubling her. But her teammates know.
"Kia, it just really breaks my heart," UConn forward Gabby Williams said. "She's like my partner in crime on the court so not to have her ... She's always the first to bring us together. So as soon as she went out the first thing I thought of was, 'Who's going to keep us together?' I had to step into that role."
Nurse played 12 minutes of the first half. Auriemma started her in the third quarter but she lasted just 1:47 before being taken out.
Did she try to lobby Auriemma into letting her back in?
"I didn't ask that. It's his call. He's the coach," Nurse said.
Nurse did return with 7:21 left and hit a dagger 3 with 4:22 to go for her only points that gave UConn its biggest lead.
Her perseverance was an inspiration to her teammates.
"You saw her toughness, and it comes out in different ways," UConn freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield said. "For her to come back in and give us what she had was huge."
25 AND UP
UConn reached the 25-win plateau for the 24th consecutive year Monday night.
"I said this to our players after the game," Auriemma said. "I told them, 'Do you know how many players don't win 100 games during their college careers?'"
The Huskies' junior class of Williams and Nurse reached the 100-win plateau Saturday against SMU. Second is Baylor among juniors with 93 wins, followed by Notre Dame at 92 wins.
Only 12 schools' senior classes have 100 wins - UConn (141), Notre Dame (129), Baylor (125), Maryland (118), South Carolina (117), Louisville (108), Stanford (108), Oregon State (106), DePaul (105), James Madison (103), Mississippi State (102), and Florida State (101).
South Florida's senior class is second to UConn in the American Athletic Conference with 94 wins.
UConn sophomore Napheesa Collier was named to the AAC weekly honor roll Monday after posting back-to-back double-doubles in wins over Cincinnati and SMU last week. USF sophomore Kitija Laksa was the Player of the Week for the third time this season ... Saniya Chong had four assists and no turnovers Monday night. The senior guard improved her nation's best assist-to-turnover ratio to 4.89. She has not made a turnover in 142 minutes on the floor ... Williams had scored 19 points six times before breaking the 20 barrier (26) Monday night ... Auriemma had few complaints with the officials, but the ones he did have seemed to be on calls by Scott Yarbrough. For those with long memories, it was Yarbrough who ejected Auriemma with two technical fouls from a game against Kentucky on Nov. 24, 1999, in Hartford. The Hall of Fame coach has been thrown out twice in 1,114 career games ... While the Huskies have Tuesday off, Auriemma traveled to Arkansas to watch top Class of 2018 guard Christyn Williams in action.
Stewart on Gabby Williams: "You see tonight and she's all over the place and she can effect a game in so many different ways. Her potential is so great and so high, I really don't where it is."