Napheesa Collier had her hands in her lap, staring straight ahead with stunned look on her face inside the locker room of the UConn basketball team.
She was not sure how losing felt and it is not surprising she does not. For her and four of her teammates on the Huskies team all of this was completely new.
Prior to Friday’s stunning upset loss in overtime of 66-64 to Mississippi State in the NCAA national semifinal UConn had won 111 straight games.
That is equal to two undefeated seasons and two runs through an entire NCAA tournament unscathed. The last loss by UConn prior to Friday was November 17, 2014. Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson a fellow sophomore were playing high school basketball at the time.
When the Huskies graduated its top three players following last season, the new generation at UConn inherited the school’s championship legacy even if Geno Auriemma the head coach did not believe it had been earned yet.
However, the winning continued and UConn returned to play in the Final Four for the tenth straight season.
Many of the 111 wins were easy and even when games became hard such as Friday’s as they trailed by 16 during the first quarter, 8 at the half, the Huskies still believed they would pull out the win, because it just always happened.
However, Morgan William had another idea in mind. Her jumper beat the buzzer in overtime and pandemonium took over. The Bulldogs piled on William in celebration, while UConn players silently walked off the court into their locker room in a state of shock.
A loss was inevitable though no one thought it would happen during the Final Four. In the locker room, Collier said the loss happened at what was the worst possible time.
However, her maturity showed when she added the team needed to use the loss to grow because no one including her wants to feel the way they do ever again.
Auriemma attempted to console his team. He said to them it was real life, not the utopia world of basketball the team has been living for the last two and a half seasons.
Auriemma admitted that there was many times this past regular season he wished the winning streak had been snapped, as it would have provided him a needed coaching tool to get through to his young squad that did not know what adversity was like, let alone a loss.
Auriemma added that the team had lived what he called a charmed life for a very long time.