UNCASVILLE, Conn. -- Katie Lou Samuelson buried a 3-pointer with 3:37 left Tuesday night and the event staff at Mohegan Sun Arena began handing out commemorative posters to the sellout crowd.
The remaining time was a countdown to Geno Auriemma's 1,000th win with the University of Connecticut women's basketball team. But the milestone didn't come without Oklahoma making it interesting.
Napheesa Collier, Azura Stevens, Samuelson and Kia Nurse combined for 77 points as the top-ranked Huskies made Auriemma the fourth Division I women's coach to reach the plateau with an 88-64 victory over the Sooners before 9,151 fans in the Naismith Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase.
"We knew it was all coming," Stevens said. "The pressure is performing the way that UConn performs every night. He didn't make this a big, big deal but I know that it's special for him."
Auriemma joins late Tennessee coach Pat Summitt (1,098), Stanford's Tara VanDerveer (1,018) and North Carolina's Sylvia Hatchell (1,000) in the 1,000-win club. Hatchell reached the plateau Tuesday afternoon when the Tar Heels defeated Grambling 79-63 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
The 2006 Naismith Hall of Fame inductee also became the fastest to reach four figures (1,135 games) ahead of Summitt (1,187), VanDerveer (1,228) and Hatchell (1,376). He was also the fastest to 600, 700, 800 and 900 wins.
"It's a number that's significant because so few people have been able to do it," Auriemma said. "And it's funny, two in one day. So it can't be that hard, right? There are so few opportunities to coach that many games so you feel fortunate that your one of a very select few. Next week, a month from now, I don't know if I'll be referred to as '1,000-game winner Geno Auriemma.' It's over and we move on."
During the postgame celebration, players from Auriemma's first team from the 1985-86 season were introduced to the crowd.
"I think the people that got the most out of that celebration were the players -- the players that have played here in the past and this year's players," Auriemma said. "They seemed to be the ones who were most engaged and had the most fun. It meant a lot to them, and we have always tried to make this thing all about our players, and tonight was another example of that."
Nurse and fellow senior Gabby Williams were freshmen when Auriemma got his 900th win on Feb. 3, 2015, against Cincinnati at the XL Center. That was 101 games ago.
And Nurse -- who will get her homecoming game Friday when UConn takes on Duquesne in Toronto, Canada (SNY, 7 p.m.) -- was also thrilled to see the team from 30 years ago. She hopes she'll have the opportunity to return 30 years from now, though Auriemma would then be 93 and likely retired.
"This is an incredible family," Nurse said. "This is something you learn your first year here when you see the former players come back and they're hanging out or offering you advice. I will absolutely come back because of what they have built and how much they've given me."
Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey were given commemorative plaques and basketballs, and Auriemma was given a new Hall of Fame jacket.
Watching from a tunnel leading to the court was Saint Joseph's of Philadelphia men's coach Phil Martelli. Auriemma was Martelli's assistant at Bishop Kenrick High in Norristown, Pennsylvania, before he became an assistant with the University of Virginia women.
"I wanted to have $20 in my pocket instead of $10. That was as far as my goals went when I coached high school basketball," Auriemma said.
"I try to tell my players this all the time. If you don't have goals for what you want to do, then you are just kind of spinning your wheels. I have to put it in terms they understand like, 'When you go shopping and you don't know what you are buying or what you are going for, you're just wasting time, and you come out with something that is meaningless. We had specific goals when we started. One of them was definitely not to win 1,000 games. We had very specific, short-term goals, and we worked very hard every day to accomplish those short-term goals."
UConn (9-0) never trailed Tuesday night, but Oklahoma (5-6) looked nothing like a team that has losses to Arkansas-Little Rock, South Dakota State and Florida on its resume.
The Huskies used an 8-0 run to take a 14-4 lead. Maddie Manning kept the Sooners within striking distance and her 3-pointer had Oklahoma within 34-22 before the Huskies went on a spurt to take their biggest lead of the half. Baskets by Nurse, Stevens and Collier got it going and Nurse capped it off with a trey -- becoming the 12th UConn with 200 career 3-pointers -- for a 21-point lead. Oklahoma closed the period strong to pull within 48-33 at halftime.
Shaina Pellington's basket made it 51-44 midway through the third quarter but Oklahoma committed a turnover with a chance to get closer. UConn then went on a 13-3 to regain command as Collier scored in the final seconds of the quarter, and Samuelson's steal and layup off the inbound pass made it 64-47 going to the fourth quarter.
The Sooners got no closer than 15 the rest of the way.
"They came out hard in the third quarter and we were sloppy," Samuelson said. "They wanted to show that the game wasn't over. We had to respond and I think we responded well. But we've got to get better at closing things out."
Collier finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Stevens had 20 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Samuelson chipped in 19 points and six assists while Nurse had 17 points. Williams had just three points as she was limited to 24 minutes with foul trouble, but had eight assists and 10 rebounds.
Oklahoma received 15 points from Manning and 14 from Vionise Pierre-Louis. The Sooners have lost all 11 games they have played against the Huskies.
In 2009, Oklahoma defeated Tennessee to deny Summitt her 1,000th win in her first attempt.
"I'm a competitor. It's an amazing accomplishment, but I wish it had happened against somebody else," Oklahoma coach Sherri Coale said. "Obviously Geno has set the bar at a crazy high level. It's both the way his teams play and the way they conduct themselves. It's total class and the momentum that he has been able to capture and ride through a couple of decades is almost incomprehensible."
UConn will play at Oklahoma next season.
With the celebration over, it's back to work Wednesday.
"It's amazing to see all the tradition and history of this program and live it out every day," Stevens said. "It was cool to see his first team come back. And it was cool to see Coach and CD and how happy they were. There was that feeling that what they do is paying off and you see that in the impact they've had on the players they've coached. It's a great moment for all of us."