Ten games into the season, we've all forgotten about what the UConn women's basketball team is not.
The team that lost three of the best players in the country has reinvented itself. With another win over another ranked team, the young Huskies are resilient and relentless and have shown an ability to play together.
The latest test: No. 12 Ohio State Monday night at the XL Center. UConn used a dominant third quarter to pull away, further solidifying its position as the No. 1 team in the country.
The 10-0 Huskies have won 85 consecutive games. Despite a short bench and a seemingly inexperienced team, UConn is thriving.
"It is what it is; this is what we've got," Auriemma said. "We're not going to win them all. We're not going to win every single game for the rest of eternity. We're going to get our ass beat by somebody."
When will that happen? Next up is Nebraska. The first game after the holiday break is Dec. 29 at No. 4 Maryland before UConn moves into its conference schedule.
"Nov. 14 to Dec. 19, it's a month and five days, we're 10-0," Auriemma said. "Beat some pretty good teams. So far so good."
Our takeaways from the win over Ohio State:
Last year, UConn had the Big Three. As the season began, there was the Core Four. As we move past the first third of the regular season, we offer this: Super Sophs, Katie Lou Samuelson and Napheesa Collier.
Gabby Williams may be the most important player on the team because she does so much at both ends of the floor. Kia Nurse is scoring and providing stability in the backcourt, along with experience and leadership.
But Collier and Samuelson are emerging as stars. Both are averaging more than 20 points. Both are diversifying their offensive games and have displayed an ability to rebound and handle the ball.
Collier missed shots in the first half vs. Ohio State, yet finished with 27 points and fueled the third-quarter run. Samuelson had 26 points and was the team's most consistent offensive player.
As Auriemma said earlier this week, UConn will go as far as these two take them.
Ohio State is a talented but often undisciplined team, prone to turnovers and seemingly incapable of moving the ball on offense. Hence the assist-to-turnover ratio Monday (six assists, 19 turnovers). But the Buckeyes have an elite player in Kelsey Mitchell, who scored 19 points in the first half and kept her team in the game. Mitchell was third in the country in scoring (26.1 points) last season and she showed Monday that she's capable to taking over a game.
Shooting from keep behind the three-point arc, driving at will and shaking defenders, she is impossible to guard. But she wasn't enough.
"I don't think there's ever one player that's going to beat us by themselves," Auriemma said. "I could be wrong, but I'll take my chances. We did a great job on their team as a whole. And that was something for us to really hang our hat on. That was pretty good."
Turnovers to points
UConn scored 28 points off 19 Ohio State turnovers, a formula that will win a lot of games. The teams offered an interesting contrast, with the undersized Huskies executing and playing efficiently while the deep and talented Buckeyes squandered opportunities and made mistakes.
UConn's defense contributed to the turnovers, of course. But the Huskies' ability to make Ohio State pay for their mistakes may have been the difference.
"We just did not execute well enough offensively, and they are the best team in college basketball taking those turnovers and converting them into points," Ohio State coach Kevin McGuff said.
A lack of depth will clearly be the biggest challenge the rest of the season. With Saniya Chong (concussion-like symptoms) out, freshman Crystal Dangerfield started and was forced to play 34 minutes. She was solid: eight points, five assists, three rebounds, two turnovers, one steal. But Auriemma said she is still raw and will continue to need to improve.
Center Natalie Butler came off the bench to score three points in 20 minutes, providing the Huskies will some low-post defense. Butler has emerged as a reliable player and she could play an expanded role as the season progresses.
But this is what UConn has to work with.
"We're maximizing what we have right now," Auriemma said.
Shades of the past
The common trait of the great UConn teams is the ability to grab a game by its throat and never let go, using quick runs to turn it into a blowout. On Monday, UConn's third quarter was Exhibit A of what the program does well.
UConn outscored Ohio State 30-14 in the third quarter, turning a close game into a easy victory. The Huskies started the second half strong and never let up, while Ohio State had no answer.
"That third quarter, man," Auriemma said. "If you tell me we're going to play like that three out of every four quarters for the rest of the year, I would tell you that's pretty good." ___
This article is written by Paul Doyle from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network.