St. John's snaps UConn's 99 game home win streak
UConn’s Tiffany Hayes drives against St. John’s defense in Saturday’s 57-56 loss to the Red Storm at Gampel Pavilion. The loss for the Huskies ended a 99 game home win streak. Ed Ryan/The Daily Campus
UConn hadn't lost to an unranked team at home since 1993. They were on the path for their 100th home win. Tiffany Hayes was honored as she took the court for her last time in uniform at Gample. For the Huskies, and the lone senior Hayes, it would have been another staple in a decorated career. For St. John's, it was the perfect storm, winning 57-56.
"Funny thing is, if you hold a team to 57 points , you're supposed to win that game. That's not a lot of points. But we struggled and St. John's never varied from what they wanted to do. Everytime they needed to make a shot or a play, they made it," said Coach Auriemma.
The Huskies suffered 18 turnovers, double the Red Storm's nine. Guard Shenneika Smith played phenomenal defense on Hayes, holding her to 8 points, and forcing 7 turnovers from the UConn guard.
"She has locked up every guard on every team this season," said St. John's head coach Kim Barnes Arico of Smith's defense.
At half-time, the aggressive St. John's led by two. While the second half started with a three from Hayes, the Red Storm kept their speed, steals and drives at a consistently faster pace than the Huskies. For the first time since the Notre Dame game, the Huskies found themselves racing against the clock and the Big East foe. A sense of urgency was employed, something both the team and the fans are unfamiliar with this season.
"The kids stepped up to the challenge and showed what kind of team we are and what we are capable of. Isn't it great for women's basketball? " said Arico. "Playing anyone in our league on their home court is extremely difficult. But when I first started coaching, people were losing by 50 points a night against Connecticut. The game is growing. It's come a long way."
With a minute to go, the game was tied at 54. Gample was roaring as Stefanie Dolson made a layup from a feed from Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis with only 30 seconds left.
With eight seconds to play, Smith hit a three to take the two point lead for St. John's. For Smith it was merely her fourth three of the season. This one secured the win.
"She was gutsy. She wanted it. Should we go for the win or for the tie? Why not go for the win?" said Coach Arico. "She does it a lot for us on the defensive end but tonight she wanted the ball and she made the big play."
St. John's hit only two threes the entire game. When asked where their three point percentage lies in their skills, Coach Arico laughed, "Last. We are terrible. But we made the one that counted tonight."
At the buzzer, a three-point attempt from Bria Hartley bounced off the rim as the Red Storm slid across the court in celebration, ending the streak.
"Winning that many games is hard to fathom no matter what. Ranked or unranked. We've done things that other coaches and programs found incredulous. Yet we've done it. But it's a blessing and a curse. Its great that we've been able to put up those numbers consistently in the program day in and day out," said Coach Auriemma. "But these kids haven't won a 100 in a row… St. John's out played us today. It was lousy for us, but a fitting end for them. I don't care if its 900 in a row, tonight reminded us that you only win when you deserve to win."
Freshman Kiah Stokes and Mosqueda-Lewis led the Huskies in points with a combined 23. UConn is scheduled to take on two road opponents, Pittsburgh and Marquette, before returning to the XL center for a rematch against Notre Dame next Monday.
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