NEW YORK - Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies are on an unbelievable run.
No, not the 109 straight wins. Or the four consecutive national championships.
Try this: They haven't lost back-to-back games in almost a quarter century. That's 883 straight games without consecutive losses.
Think about that for a minute. No current UConn player was even born the last time this program had a losing streak. And that mark is safe for at least another year, which has Rebecca Lobo thinking about popping the champagne with her former teammates - the ones who actually lost two in a row.
Lobo was a sophomore on the 1992-93 UConn team, which suffered consecutive defeats. The Huskies actually had a three-game and two-game losing skid that season, dropping the final two games of the season.
“They should trot us out at halftime next year at one of the games and recognize us,” Lobo joked. “That's what it comes to. The only thing they can honor that's new and different. Maybe that team is the black sheep of the UConn family.”
Maybe without that failure, the success UConn has had since wouldn't have been so great.
“That loss helped fuel us for the future,” said Jen Rizzotti, who was a freshman on the team. “I remember all offseason wanting to make sure that never happened again.”
It hasn't. In fact, UConn has lost only 57 games since that year.
That team went 18-11 - the last UConn squad not to win 20 games - and was in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament, an unheard of thought for a Husky team that has since won 11 national championships. The players had planned to watch the selection show together, but a blizzard hit the area that night, so they couldn't even watch as a group.
“I was nervous,” recalled Jamelle Elliott, who was a freshman on that team. “You either get in or get on a train for an eight-hour trip to D.C. the next day to spend a week at home with your family, as it was spring break.”
Kathy Ferrier, the lone senior on the team, remembers watching the show with her boyfriend and feeling a sense of relief when the Huskies’ name popped onto the screen.
“I knew as a senior this could be it, the season could be over,” said Ferrier, who lives in Connecticut now. “As soon as the name appeared we started calling each other.”
Ferrier was one of the only links to the team's first Final Four appearance when she was a sophomore. There wasn't the rich history yet on campus for the players to fall back on when coach was yelling at them in practice.
“He treated us as the same way he did that first Final Four team and the way he treats all his teams today,” Ferrier said. “It helped make us better players.”
The three-game losing streak in the middle of the season included a visit from Stanford that was believed to be the first sellout at Gampel Pavilion. The season ended with consecutive defeats to Miami in the Big East Tournament semifinals and Louisville in the first round of the NCAAs.
“We just couldn't handle it. We were not good enough,” Auriemma said of the 1992-93 team. “That was the bottom line. Louisville was way better than us. Providence was better than us. We just weren't good enough. We were lucky to make the tournament. We just had too many freshmen and sophomores playing too many key roles. We just weren't ready. Then obviously, the next two years. ... well you know.”
The Huskies won the first of their 11 titles two years later, going undefeated for the first time in school history.
The makeup of that team sounds familiar to this season's squad, the one that's kept the NCAA-record winning streak going and is four victories away from a fifth straight national championship.
Rizzotti recalled a conversation she had with Auriemma at the start of this season.
“At the beginning of the year, when we talked about the season, after they barely escaped the game at Florida State, he said this team reminds me of your freshmen year,” she said. “How wrong was he? They were nothing like us. We were young and dumb.”
As far as the ‘92-93 team, Auriemma says he always gets an earful from Elliott when they chat.
“To this day, if you call her or text her, Jamelle Elliott will tell you there is one reason and one reason only: You didn't start me,” he said laughing. “You didn't play me enough and that's why we lost. And she says that to me every time this subject comes up. And since then, I've tried to never have the wrong guys in the starting lineup or the wrong guys out on the floor. So, thank you Jamelle.”