UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Ashley Hughes' final shot for the University of Tulsa women's basketball team went around the rim and in for her Saturday. But UConn's Molly Bent had bumped her on the floor before the release of the foul-line jumper, and though the senior guard tried a bit to sell the hoop to the officials, the call would only allow her team to maintain possession.
It would also be her last play for the Golden Hurricane. With 1:45 to go, Hughes left the Mohegan Sun Arena floor having left everything she had on it. After slapping hands with her coaches and teammates down the sidelines she took a seat and looked at the scoreboard that showed her team facing a 46-point deficit.
At the final buzzer of UConn's 105-57 victory in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament, Hughes slapped the floor with the palms of her hands. The Huskies had pushed their winning streak to 105, but Hughes was not beaten. The toughest women's basketball player on the planet went out with her head held high.
"They exploit your weaknesses so well," Hughes said of the Huskies following Tulsa's first-round win over Memphis Friday. "Maybe against another team you can make a couple of turnovers and then they'll miss a shot or not block out. With UConn you have to be on your game in every aspect because they are so efficient. They have five players that play as one and they take advantage of weaknesses."
The game played out like that. Tulsa made only 13 turnovers but UConn turned them into 21 points. The Golden Hurricane shot 38.1 percent from the floor against a team that been holding league opponents to 32.4 percent. But the Huskies shot 62.3 percent and had 27 assists attached to their 38 baskets. Six players -- led by AAC Co-Players of the Year Napheesa Collier (24) and Katie Lou Samuelson (19) -- scored in double figures.
"I don't think so," Hughes answered when asked if UConn's dominance was bad for the sport. "Who are we as competitors to say, 'You being so good is bad for our game.' You could compare them to a monopoly, but they've done it honestly. Because of that they bring a lot of exposure to women's basketball. When you say women's basketball, you say UConn. Their dominance has reflected well on women's basketball."
Hughes finished with nine points on a trio of 3-pointers -- including one in the first half that was banked in from the wing as the shot clock expired -- and matched her career highs of eight rebounds and three steals in 30 minutes. She also took time to wave to her mother, Cathy, who was sitting in the front row across from the Tulsa bench. In her final three games, she averaged 13.0 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
The Sulphur, Oklahoma, native played in 101 of a possible 122 games in her four seasons and her career totals of 314 points, 187 rebounds and 109 assists are modest. The exercise and sports science major will receive her bachelor's degree in May.
But she also knows what she'll be remembered for is a play from Jan. 7, 2015 when UConn and Tulsa met for the first time as AAC foes at the XL Center in Hartford.
"My infamous moment," Hughes said with a laugh. "I drove baseline and Kia Nurse got her hand on the ball. We both go down to grab it and my tooth hits the court first. If you were at the game, you know half of my tooth fell out. It was just one of those things. You can't predict it. Our trainer took me to the bench and said, 'Show me what it is.' I took the towel off and I could see the camera lens zooming in."
Hughes had parts of her two front teeth knocked out. She reached for them while on the floor and Tulsa coach Matilda Mossman came out with a tissue to pick them up as well. Minutes later, Hughes returned to the game and connected from 3-point land.
Her toughness earned her a spot on ESPN's SportsCenter with the network bringing in NHL analyst Barry Melrose to talk about Hughes' hockey-like grit. Of course, Nurse's older brother -- Darnell -- plays for the Edmonton Oilers.
"If you ever wanted to know what having 15 minutes of fame is like, that was it," Hughes said. "I got a lot of exposure. It was crazy."
She was asked if Saturday's game would give one more chance to get even with UConn. She laughed and said, "I think we've played them five times since so I've moved past that." The competitor in here was looking forward to the chance at ending UConn's NCAA record winning streak.
Tulsa hung around for seven minutes as Hughes' first 3 had the Golden Hurricane within 14-10. But an 18-2 run over a 4:11 span pushed the UConn lead to 20. After Tulsa hit a trey, a 19-2 burst doubled the Huskies' advantage to an insurmountable 34.
In Hughes' four seasons, Tulsa had a 52-70 record including 18 wins in its first year in the AAC in 2014-15. Sophomores Collier and Samuelson have been part of 68 wins at UConn. The Huskies, who are 152-1 since the start of the 2013 NCAA Tournament, will take on Central Florida in an AAC semifinal game Sunday at 5 p.m.
"Being in this thing called Division I basketball for four years, 105 straight wins is out of this world," Hughes said. "I don't know if the average fan can get a grasp on what that looks like. I read recently they have had six unbeaten seasons. Everyone in this game has so much respect for them for what they have done. They go out and do their business. Coach (Geno) Auriemma and his staff have built a program that's dominant and they prove themselves day-in and day-out. So 105 straight wins, I don't know if I can put it in perspective."
As she looked around the arena and over to her mother following the postgame handshakes Saturday, Hughes -- who had her broken teeth fixed about a week after the 2015 event -- managed a smile.
A winning smile.
AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
(at Mohegan Sun Arena)
No. 4 Central Florida 61, No. 5 Tulane 57
No. 1 UConn 105, No. 9 Tulsa 57
No. 2 Temple 67, No. 10 Houston 58
Central Florida vs. UConn, 5 p.m.
South Florida vs. Temple, 7:30 p.m.
MONDAY'S CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.