STORRS, Conn -- University of Connecticut women's basketball royalty -- from Sue Bird to Maya Moore to Bria Hartley to Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck -- was seated right behind its bench.
And on this extraordinary Monday night at sold-out Gampel Pavilion, Gabby Williams was the queen of the court.
The junior forward had a career high 26 points, 14 rebounds, four assists, four steals, and two blocked shots in a remarkable 40-minute effort as the top-ranked Huskies made it 100 consecutive wins by defeating No. 6 South Carolina 66-55 before a raucous crowd of 10,167.
"There were times in the game that I would look at them, especially when things weren't going our way," Williams said. "I would think, 'What would Tuck say right now? What would Stewie say right now?' I really had those moments.
"It wasn't even the number that we got tonight that makes this so special. It was the fans that were here, the environment in here, the fact that we had a competitive game that we really had to grind out. Doing it in front of the alumni felt really, really special."
UConn (25-0) reached the 25-win plateau for the 24th consecutive season. That the Huskies would get to that number during the year is not surprising. That they got there in 25 games including a 13-game non-league schedule that was the toughest in the country is stunning.
From the Associated Press poll released Monday, they own wins over No. 2 Maryland, both teams at No. 4 Baylor and Florida State, No. 6 South Carolina, No. 7 Notre Dame, and No. 8 Texas.
"We didn't return any All-Americans. No one really knew who was going to be 'The Guy' or guys that would take over," Williams said. "We've all taken a piece of it, a piece of responsibility. That's what made us different. We don't have that star player."
It would be hard convincing the Gamecocks (21-3) of that.
Williams was 10-for-19 from the floor, doing her best work while going around or over 6-foot-4 South Carolina canter Alaina Coates or 6-foot-5 forward A'ja Wilson. Six of her rebounds were offensive as UConn held a 16-12 edge in second-chance points.
She also committed just two fouls.
"The physicality of the game lived up to all my expectations," Williams said. "Our coaches did a good job preparing us for that. SMU on Saturday was good preparation for that with their big guys. I knew if South Carolina was going to try and be physical, I was going to be quicker and get around them and use their physicality against them."
On a night that Kia Nurse was limited to 18 minutes due to right ankle issues and leading scorer Katie Lou Samuelson could not get on track, Williams responded like a veteran should.
She was the best player and leader on the floor.
"You hear the word special a lot, 'She's special. This player is special,' " UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "There is nothing special about Gabby. The word special is thrown around like it's ordinary. What she is, is just an extraordinary athlete who understands what she is and then tries to live up to it. And not everybody does.
"Her basketball skills slowly but surely have caught up - and they aren't even completely caught up - to her extraordinary talent. When that time comes when her basketball skills completely catch up, then it will be the next wave of women's basketball players you'll see coming along. There is no one else like her in women's college basketball. If somebody send me a video tomorrow of someone who is like her, I'll change my mind. But there isn't right now."
Napheesa Collier added 18 points and nine rebounds for the Huskies. It was the first time this season UConn has had only two players score in double figures and it was the first time that Samuelson (six points on 2-for-12 shooting) did not get there.
They still had enough.
"It was just a crazy day," Collier said. "The student section was amazing. Having them support us and making a great environment really helped."
There were six lead changes in the opening 19 minutes. The Huskies used a 7-0 spurt in the final 66 seconds of the first half to move in front for good.
A Collier 3-pointer erased a one-point deficit and Williams scored off a rebound. Then with the Gamecocks holding for the final shot, Crystal Dangerfield and Saniya Chong trapped Bianca Cuevas-Moore and Collier intercepted a pass and beat the buzzer on a layup for a 35-29 lead at the break.
"That was a big momentum-changer going into halftime," Collier said.
South Carolina was still within three before UConn closed the third quarter with an 11-2 run to lead 51-39. A trey by Ty Harris made it a nine-point gap but South Carolina got no closer as it fell to the Huskies for the third time in three seasons.
Wilson had 12 points in the opening 12 minutes but finished with just 17 points. Coates had a double-double of 10 points and 15 rebounds but was a non-factor for long stretches.
"For 18 minutes in the first half, I thought it favored our game plan," South Carolina coach Dawn Staley said. "Then we had those turnovers and they turned into uncontested layups. It deflated us."
The Gamecocks will entertain UConn in Columbia next season.
After the game, many of the former UConn stars made their way onto the court to join the current club. It was some 45 minutes after the final buzzer that the party broke up.
Whether they've been in uniform since Nov. 23, 2014 -- win No. 1 of the streak -- or not they're all a part of it.
"There were a lot of good players sitting in the stands tonight," Auriemma said. "When I turned around and looked at the bench one time, I almost called one of them out. There were a lot of wins up in the stands tonight, a lot of championships.
"If this would've been done by last year's team, I think it would have been less heroic. It would have been, 'Well, of course, they're supposed to, look who they have. They have the three best players in America.' For this team to do it, given where we started and where people projected us and who we had coming back and who everybody else had coming back, it's very appropriate. They probably feel better about it than last year's team would have, a big win against a very good team in an amazing environment. We had to do it under somewhat difficult circumstances. But someway or another, we figured out a way to do it."