A few weeks ago, I happened to catch a glimpse of the Connecticut women's basketball schedule while watching ESPN. At this time, their consecutive wins streak was still alive. I noticed that the Huskies would be traveling to North Carolina to take on the No. 11 Tar Heel women's team. I am a lifelong Heels fan, but I jumped at the chance to go the game mainly because I wanted to see the UConn women in person.
I was not disappointed.
One point I noticed as the game began is the size of the Connecticut fan base. Carmichael Auditorium is by no means a giant arena. It holds around 8,000 people, and last Monday night was a near-capacity crowd. As the Heels took the floor for their warmup session, they were greeted warmly by the hometown fans. The Huskies then came out to warm up, with a greeting much warmer than was given to North Carolina.
The majority of the upper section of arena contained fans decked out in Connecticut colors. Although I do not believe they outnumbered the Carolina fans, it would not surprise me that many Heels fans cheered for the Huskies.
How many teams command and receive that type of respect?
As North Carolina got loose, I saw them perform the basic passing drills, layup lines and stretches that most other basketball teams run through before every game.
Is there any doubt that Connecticut is the best team in women's college basketball?
However, things looked far different at the other end of the court. The Huskies warmed up by simply running through offensive sets. There were no defenders, just a simple full-speed review of the playbook.
From the time the game began, it appeared as if the Huskies were doing the same drills. In the first 90 seconds, they knocked down all four of their shots, while the Tar Heels missed all of their shots, leading to a timeout at the 1:23 mark in the first half. Before the game, the PA announcer told the crowd to stand up until the Heels scored. After seeing this display, I began to fear for the health of my legs.
Fortunately, North Carolina was able to score shortly afterward. Personally, I thought the Heels looked very intimidated by Connecticut, and came out playing extremely rushed.
However, the Huskies deserve a tremendous amount of credit. In the opening 10 minutes of the game, Connecticut shot 15 of 20 from the field, a whopping 75 percent. Most of these shots were not even difficult. UConn ran their sets incredibly well, leading to wide open three-pointers, jump shots and layups.
Throughout the rest of the contest, Connecticut shredded North Carolina's man-to-man defense. Backdoor cuts and ball screens could be found constantly on UConn's offensive end. It seemed like that they could run any play and be successful.
Plus, the Huskies shoot extremely well. If any player is given the slightest window to shoot, the net will soon be rippling with another Connecticut basket. I constantly found myself turning to my friends to say "wow" after several of their offensive possessions.
However, the Huskies were not completely unstoppable. At halftime, North Carolina had narrowed its deficit to 12, with the score 49-37.
The second half started just like the first, with the Huskies scoring eight straight points in the first 90 seconds, leading to a Tar Heel timeout. A game that appeared to have some interest suddenly turned into a rout.
After taking a 57-37 advantage, the Huskies didn't let up. With the score 61-41 with 15 minutes left, Connecticut quickly went on a 11-2 run in the space of two minutes, putting them up 72-43 with 13 minutes to go.
A few minutes later, I left, leaving the Huskies to take care of business, 83-57. Ultimately, Tiffany Hayes led all scorers with 29 points, while Maya Moore added a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds. Italee Lucas led North Carolina with 13 points as the only Tar Heel player to attain double-figure scoring in the game.
I had never seen a team ranked in the top 25 get dominated in that fashion in any sport. Connecticut was far superior to North Carolina—so far that it appeared as if the Heels were not even on the court. It is impossible for me to fathom that a team is ranked above the Huskies in the polls. If the team I saw on January 17 was not the best team in the country, women's college basketball has some issues that need to be sorted out.