When he feels too much emphasis is placed on perfection, UConn coach Geno Auriemma likes to remind his audience of a basic fact.
It's not necessary to win them all to win it all.
But that doesn't mean winning a game like the top-ranked Huskies' did at Oklahoma on Monday didn't make him proud, because he knows deep down what he's watching is special.
"I probably haven't put it in its proper place yet. But when you think about winning 65 straight games, and realize how easy it is to miss shots and not play well, and have the opponent make shots and play well, you can see how easy it is to kind of lose your composure, drift away and lose the game," Auriemma said after UConn defeated No.11 Oklahoma, 76-60.
"I can see how it can happen. And the fact that we've gone almost two years without losing means we show up every night. And the more you see other teams, the more you realize how unique that is, not to have an off night."
If there has been a common denominator to the second-longest winning streak in Division I women's basketball history, it's that UConn has rarely been pushed the way it was Monday.
Consider that UConn had trailed only twice in the second half in two seasons since losing to Stanford at the 2008 Final Four in Tampa, Fla.
But Oklahoma had all of the ingredients in place. The Huskies were playing in front of a frenzied partisan crowd. The Sooners were energized.
"If teams played the way Oklahoma did, the scores wouldn't be the way they are [against UConn]," Auriemma said.
UConn was having trouble making shots. Oklahoma's guards were penetrating and making outside shots and forward Amanda Thompson, who played all 40 minutes, made Maya Moore (18 points) work for everything.
"The more I am involved in this, the more I see, the more I really enjoy the games and where I am," Auriemma said. "I enjoy the pressure of having to win every game. I enjoy knowing that if, God forbid, we should be in a close game that everyone will begin to panic.
"It's something I've grown up with over the last 15 years. I try not to think of what could have been."
After trailing by as many as 14, 26-12 with 8:41 to play in the first half, Oklahoma cut the deficit to 34-32 at the half by holding UConn without a basket for the final 4:49.
"We were very passive offensively," Auriemma said. "I thought if we could force the issue a little more in the second half we'd be OK."
In the second half, the lead seesawed three times within the first four minutes, the Sooners moving ahead 39-38 with 16:06 to play on a basket by guard Danielle Robinson.
But once Kalana Greene hit a layup with 15:47 to play, Oklahoma never led again.
And after Charles scored with 7:30 remaining, giving the Huskies a 55-45 lead, the margin was at least 10 points the rest of the way.
"Seeing the crowd [11,865 at the Lloyd Noble Center] was great," Moore said. "But when we see them, we also know that we need to stay together. When the pressure of the crowd begins, it brings out the best in us."
The Huskies complete the regular season with four conference games, beginning Saturday against Providence at the XL Center. If they beat the Friars, Syracuse and Georgetown, they will go to Notre Dame on March 1 with a chance to complete their eighth undefeated conference season.
And then history would be at their doorstep. The Huskies would take a 69-game unbeaten streak into the Big East tournament March 5-9 at the XL Center. They could tie their record 70-game streak in the quarterfinals and break it in the semifinals.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times