In The Paint

SI.com's All-American Hoops Blog

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Renee Montgomery and Geno Auriemma hug on Monday.
AP

By Nina Mandell

UConn clinched its perfect regular season -- the Huskies' fifth in history -- in the way Geno Auriemma's teams always do: straight business. They dashed out to a quick double-digit lead and while they did allow the Scarlet Knights a glimmer of hope, they never allowed them to truly threaten.

National player of the year contender Renee Montgomery shot 58 percent from the three and led the Huskies with 23 points to make up for a subpar night from co-National player of the year contender Maya Moore (12 points). The Huskies signature stifling defense held Rutgers sharpshooter Epiphanny Prince, who lit the Huskies up for 33 points in their only regular-season loss last season, to a mere 11 points.  Of course, with the season finishing exactly how it's been all year -- boringly successful -- Auriemma opened his mouth to the referees and was given a technical foul with three minutes to go, only to earn a smirk from an amused Montgomery caught by some skillful ESPN cameramen.

To the unstoppable juggernaut that is the Huskies this year, it takes a lot more than a free possession and two points for the other team to shake them. After losing super-recruit Elena Della-Donne before the season and then guard Caroline Doty to a knee injury, the Huskies began the season behind Tennessee -- something that seems absolutely ridiculous now.

Featuring what could be UConn's best guard-forward combo ever (Moore and Montgomery), UConn has not allowed anyone in the women's college hoops world to even come close this season. Against Oklahoma, the current No. 1 in the RPI, the Huskies handed out a 28-point beatdown in November. A game against then-No. 2 North Carolina in January was supposed to be another test -- they blew out the Tar Heels by 30. In Chapel Hill.

And so it's gone for the rest of the season. Player of the year contender Angel McCoughtery and Louisville downed by 28. Then-No.19 Pittsburgh by 53. And finally, Rutgers, the one team that stopped them last season, by 19 at home and 10 on the road. They've been a unanimous No. 1 in the AP poll 14 weeks in a row, and their average margin of victory has been a mind-blowing 31.1 points.

But the real test will come in the NCAA tournament, something the Huskies haven't won since 2004 -- which for Auriemma is an eternity.

"I'm disappointed every year we don't win the [national title]," the legendary coach said in an earlier taped television interview. But as for the next step to cap off the perfect regular season, after the game, he told Rebecca Lobo  -- who gave him his first national title in 1995 -- he had his worries. "How much time do we have? Like everyone else, I'm worried about depth and foul trouble to start," he said. "But between now and Thursday, I'm not going to worry about a single thing." And for a team that's proved itself to be a step above the rest, that's a luxury that is well-deserved.

 

 

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