Nearly seven years ago, a UConn women's basketball team, one that would win a national title, carried a 70-game unbeaten streak into the Big East championship game at Rutgers.
There, the Huskies encountered Villanova — the sports car vs. the speed bump. And that's where the winning streak ended, UConn's gas tank siphoned down to 48 points by the Wildcats' methodical style.
Saturday, the current UConn team, seemingly destined to compete for a second straight NCAA championship, carried a 57-game unbeaten streak into The Pavilion, where Villanova was already shifted into idle.
But this time, the speed bump was flattened by the plow that has laid low all contenders and pretenders in its way.
Does this sound familiar? Villanova held the ball. When the Wildcats weren't holding it, they whipped it around the perimeter. When they weren't whipping it around, they were hoisting threes.
And the No.1 Huskies used up whatever time was remaining to demolish the Wildcats 74-35 before 3,723.
"Our goal was to make them shoot the ball over our heads," Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. "We wanted to take their transition away and make them take 15 to 18 seconds to score instead of 5 to 7. My kids did what I asked them to do."
Villanova actually outscored UConn in transition, 4-3. But the Huskies (19-0, 6-0 Big East) now have won 58 straight, all by double-digit margins, most secured in single-digit minutes.
"I didn't think we'd score that many points because I didn't think we'd have that many possessions," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "But we executed well and the right people got the open shots — but you still have to make them. Funny stuff happens when you play these guys."
Tina Charles scored 14 points (6-for-10), leaving her 28 shy of becoming the sixth UConn player with 2,000 in a career.
Soon to join the club is Maya Moore (1,785), who led the Huskies with 24 points (10-for-14) and tied Charles with eight rebounds. Moore was 3-for-4 from three. Kalana Greene had 10 points, all in the first half.
"We knew we were going to need to be patient," Moore said. "We knew it wasn't going to be like the North Carolina game, back and forth, back and forth. We needed good possessions, hit shots and make some stops. It's really kind of that simple sometimes."
The Huskies held Villanova to 11 of 47 shooting (23.4 percent). Villanova, which was 7-for-30 from three, was led by Maria Getty with 11 points.
"Frankly, they could have beat us 100-30 today if they wanted to," Perretta said.
The Wildcats (11-7, 0-5) have been crushed by injuries. They lost two starters — swingman Amanda Swiezynski and guard Tia Grant — to knee injuries in December. Last week against Marquette, junior center Heather Scanlon injured a foot, and she missed her second consecutive game on Saturday.
That forced Perretta to plug in freshman guard Rachel Roberts, the former All-State player from Mercy-Middletown, after planning to redshirt her. And it left him with only eight players, including five freshmen. Roberts played 15 minutes and had six points.
The Huskies also made a lineup shift. Senior Meghan Gardler, from nearby Springfield, Pa., made her first career start in place of Tiffany Hayes, who had started the previous 34 games. Gardler played 24 minutes and scored six points.
"It really touched me to be able to start here for the first time in front of my home crowd," said Gardler, who estimated that more than 100 friends and relatives attended the game.
Villanova actually had the lead for 10 seconds after Getty's free throw made it 1-0. But once Charles sank the game's first hoop with 19:06 left in the half, it went downhill fast for the Wildcats.
UConn led 45-12 at the half; Villanova's three field goals (in 16 attempts) were the fewest allowed this season by UConn. Appropriately, 12 of those shots were threes.
Moore scored 17 in the half. The Huskies broke it open with a 21-0 run that made it 39-8. In the midst of that run, Greene scored eight straight points. Then threes by Caroline Doty, Moore and Hayes ended it.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times