When the UConn women's basketball team arrived in Houston, they were a slightly different version of themselves.
The Huskies' loss to Baylor earlier in the week affected them more than an early January loss would most teams. UConn isn't used to losing outside of the NCAA Tournament, and the first chance to bounce back comes at the perfect time: AAC play. The Huskies will be looking for redemption on Sunday against Houston in a conference where they have never lost a game.
After the 68-57 loss to the Bears in Waco, Texas, several players said they needed to find a way to stress the importance of the loss while still finding a way to move on and focus on the remaining season. It's a balancing act no one on the team has had to perform before, generally having months to make the transition from a Final Four loss to the first game of the next season.
Senior Napheesa Collier had said the team would spend some time watching film from the Baylor game before moving on to practicing for Houston.
"[It's] just getting our minds right and seeing what we did to be able to learn from it and move on," Collier said. "We do have more games to play this season, so we have to be able to focus on what the next thing's going to be."
Despite being upset about losing, UConn was composed afterward. Coach Geno Auriemma said there weren't any emotional outbursts, with most of his players being naturally quiet.
"You know, this isn't the world that we live in," Auriemma said. "This is not the old days where guys are going to go in the locker room after a loss and throw water bottles and punch lockers. It's a different world. ... I'm sure they were disappointed, I'm sure they were upset that they lost. I mean, who wouldn't be?"
They might not have shown Auriemma their anger, but senior Katie Lou Samuelson said it's very much a part of the team's current emotions. Collier and Samuelson, the team leaders, said their talk after the game was about fixing mistakes they made against Baylor, such as their stagnant offense, so they would be better in future games. They discussed accountability, stressing the importance of each player improving on their weaknesses, and talked about moving forward against Houston.
The Huskies will enter conference play with myriad records and streaks still intact. They've never lost an AAC game, and they haven't lost back-to-back games since 1993. UConn has been a dominant force in the conference, winning five consecutive AAC regular season and tournament titles.
"It's different," Samuelson said. "Clearly it's nowhere near the emotions of the past two years where we lost in the Final Four, but I think there's more anger this year. [It's] feeling like you could've done things to help your team, but also knowing you have a game on Sunday."
This article is written by Kelli Stacy from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.