-- Looking for drama, down-to-the-wire finishes, harrowing escapes? You're not going to find much of that stuff in the current UConn women's basketball winning streak. To be frank, it's been about as perfunctory as such a remarkable feat can be.
It's at 89 now, with coach Geno Auriemma's Huskies just two victories away from breaking their own record. They are 14-0 this season heading into Tuesday's matchup with South Florida at the XL Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
If not for UConn's 88-86 loss in overtime at Stanford on Nov. 17, 2014, this streak would be 137 in a row. But that's the thing: Losses like that one should happen, even to great teams. Yet they typically don't happen to UConn.
With that one stumble, UConn went 38-1 during the 2014-15 season and outscored foes by an average of 40.7 points. In 2015-16, it was 39.8. This season, UConn has less experience and sheer star power. The Huskies are winning by an average of 24.7. And in their four games against top-10 opponents, the winning margin is 7.5 points. Yet the key word is still "winning."
As we look ahead to Tuesday's potential record-tying game, let's look back on a dozen games since the Huskies' last loss that perhaps could have ended the streak but didn't. UConn always had an answer, whether it was that trademark run that puts the score out of reach, or any of a number of Huskies who stepped up at the right moment.
We've defined the games as "close" (competitive enough that there was a chance for the Huskies to lose); "plausibly close" (you never truly thought they would lose, but at least they were pushed a bit); and "not close" (it became evident fairly quickly that the supposed challenge would not materialize).
Even in the games designated as close, it wasn't because the Huskies played poorly. They virtually never do that. Rather, their opponents put up a good challenge -- just not quite good enough. Because it's incredibly hard to be good enough to beat the Huskies.
2016-17 season, 14-0: New look, but wins continue
• Nov. 14, 2016, at No. 12 Florida State, 78-76 (C): This was it: by far the closest game of the streak -- the only game, in fact, during this winning stretch that was decided by just one basket. Napheesa Collier made it clear that she was ready for a big sophomore season with 28 points and a game-saving block. The Seminoles had a chance to tie the score with 13.7 seconds left when Brittany Brown was fouled attempting a 3-pointer. She made two of three free throws, but UConn lost the rebound after the miss, and Florida State had the ball back. That's when Collier blocked Shakayla Thomas' shot, and UConn regained possession and then hit one more free throw for the final margin. The Seminoles -- who were without leading scorer Leticia Romero due to injury -- had led by four at halftime and were ahead by as much as seven in the third quarter. But the "new-look" Huskies -- without 2015-16 senior stars Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson -- still prevailed.
• Nov. 17, 2016, vs. No. 2 Baylor, 72-61 (C): The Lady Bears have a lot of height, and it was expected that might give No. 3 UConn some trouble. Baylor also has some very accomplished and experienced scorers. Plus, Kim Mulkey is one of the few coaches who has defeated UConn in recent history and is never intimidated by any opponent or setting, including sold-out Gampel Pavilion in Storrs. But UConn freshman guard Crystal Dangerfield was dazzling with 19 points, and the Huskies took control in the fourth quarter with a 16-2 run. Baylor's Kalani Brown, a 6-foot-7 center who currently is averaging 14.1 points and 8.7 rebounds, had just nine and five against UConn. And forward Nina Davis, a first-team All-American in 2016, was held scoreless as Baylor was outscored 26-22 in the paint despite its size advantage. Asked what UConn's ultimate edge was in this game, Mulkey said, "Sheer toughness."
• Dec. 7, 2016, at No. 2 Notre Dame, 72-61 (PC): The Irish actually lost their No. 1 ranking in the AP poll to UConn two days before this game, and in this case the voters proved to be on target. In front of a full house in South Bend, both teams defended well, but the Huskies' offense executed. UConn junior Gabby Williams played her heart out, finishing with 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in a performance even tough critic Auriemma called "magnificent." There were moments when the Irish challenged UConn, but not to the extent that it looked like the Huskies would lose.
• Dec. 29, 2016, at No. 4 Maryland, 87-81 (C): The Terrapins have two senior standouts in Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Brionna Jones, but it was two of their freshmen -- Destiny Slocum and Kaila Charles -- who helped this game live up to the hype at sold-out Xfinity Center in College Park. Maryland's fourth-quarter comeback cut the lead to five points three times. With UConn sophomore and leading scorer Katie Lou Samuelson sick before and during the game, she and the Huskies had to dig a little deeper. "Lou" scored 23 points as UConn prevailed in its next-to-last nonconference game.
2015-16 season, 38-0: Can't touch them
• Nov. 16, 2015, at No. 7 Ohio State, 100-56 (NC): The Buckeyes had given No. 2 South Carolina a tough game just three days earlier, losing 88-80. Yet the huge gap between Nos. 1 and 2 was obvious in the season's opening week, as Ohio State didn't have any of the same success against top-ranked UConn that it had against South Carolina. The Huskies held Kelsey Mitchell -- who had scored 36 vs. the Gamecocks and would finish the season averaging 26.1 -- to just eight points on 2-of-14 shooting. UConn kept the Buckeyes to 33.3 percent from the field. The Huskies shot 56.9 percent.
• Dec. 5, 2015, vs. No. 3 Notre Dame, 91-81 (PC): It was a 10-point final margin, but it wasn't dramatic in the closing quarter like UConn's game with Maryland would be later in the month. The Irish were missing injured post player Brianna Turner but got a great performance from freshman guard Marina Mabrey (23 points on 10-of-13 shooting). UConn was up by just two points at halftime in Storrs but led by as much as 22 in the fourth quarter. Stewart, who had an acrobatic tip-in that was nearly a dunk during the game, led the way with 28 points and 10 rebounds.
• Dec. 28, 2015, vs. No. 6 Maryland, 83-73 (C): At Madison Square Garden in New York City, the Terps successfully fed the ball inside to Brionna Jones, who scored 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting. Maryland was down by nine to start the fourth quarter but got within four with 1:08 left on Tierney Pfirman's 3-pointer. However, UConn got a key basket 28 seconds later from an unexpected source: Saniya Chong answered with a 3-pointer. The Huskies then stretched the margin to 10 to close out the final minute. Stewart had 23 points and seven assists to lead the Huskies in what proved to be their only close finish of the entire season. In retrospect, any sense of "suspense" for the 2015-16 Huskies began and ended with this game.
• Feb. 8, 2016, at No. 2 South Carolina, 66-54 (NC): The Gamecocks were on their way to the SEC regular-season and tournament titles. They had size, skill and experience and a packed house at Colonial Life Arena. But they struggled from the start to successfully attack UConn's defense, and it didn't get much better. South Carolina guard Tiffany Mitchell was slowed by a back injury, and forward A'ja Wilson was hurt in the second quarter and didn't return until near the end of the third. Tuck put the clamps on Gamecocks center Alaina Coates, who scored just two points. Of seniors Tuck, Stewart and Jefferson -- who combined for 53 points -- Auriemma said, "I appreciate them more and more every day. I just can't say enough about those guys."
2014-15 season, 38-1: Statement season after early loss
• Dec. 6, 2014, at No. 2 Notre Dame, 76-58 (NC): The teams' longtime Big East rivalry ended after the 2012-13 season when Notre Dame went to the ACC and UConn to the American Athletic Conference. They played just once -- in the NCAA final -- in 2013-14. There was a lot of acrimony between Auriemma and Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw by that point, but they still resumed their regular-season series in 2014-15 in the Jimmy V Classic. The Irish had lost star Skylar Diggins to graduation and were still missing her a lot this early in the season. Jewell Loyd had 31 points for Notre Dame, but the Irish shot just 31.4 percent. UConn -- which was ranked No. 3 because of the loss to Stanford -- dominated the boards 52-34, as Tuck had one of the best games of her career with 25 points and nine rebounds.
• Dec. 29, 2014, vs. No. 10 Duke, 83-52 (NC): The Blue Devils and Huskies played eight times between November 2007 and December 2014, with UConn winning all of them by an average margin of 28.6 points. At least the script was a little different at the start of this game in Hartford, as the margin was just seven at halftime. But in the second half, UConn once again clobbered Duke, outscoring the Blue Devils 50-26 and outshooting them 60.7 to 28 percent. The Huskies scored 24 points off 22 turnovers.
• Feb. 9, 2015, vs. No. 1 South Carolina, 87-62 (NC): The then-No. 2 Huskies proved they were second to nobody. South Carolina would later make the Final Four, but it couldn't put a dent in the Huskies during this regular-season matchup in Storrs. The game started well, as the teams were tied at 18 with 12:18 left in the first half. Then the Huskies went on an 18-2 run, and it was over. They maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way, stretching it to 25 by game's end. Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis and Stewart combined for 45 points.
• April 7, 2015, vs. No. 2 Notre Dame, 63-53 (C): For the second consecutive season, the Huskies and the Irish faced off in the national championship game. In the 2014 final, both teams were undefeated when they met, but Notre Dame had lost starting center Natalie Achonwa to a knee injury in the Elite Eight and just wasn't the same team, falling 79-58. The 2015 final in Tampa, Florida, was the teams' second meeting of that season, and it was closer than their December game had been in South Bend. Stewart was held to eight points, and the Irish trailed by just six with a little over five minutes left. But Mosqueda-Lewis scored seven consecutive points to close out the victory, as UConn claimed its 10th NCAA title.