-- With not even three minutes played in Wednesday's game at No. 1 Connecticut, four East Carolina substitutes knelt in suddenly crowded confines in front of the scorer's table. From there, as they waited to take the court, they watched Connecticut's Gabby Williams anticipate and intercept a pass and race by them on her way to two easy points at the other end.
A fifth would-be substitute soon joined them.
Honestly, the rest of women's college basketball knows how they felt.
East Carolina's bench didn't hold the answer. If the game wasn't over before tip, it was settled almost before those substitutes stood up. UConn cruised to a 90-45 victory, the 89th in a row for the four-time defending champions.
So it is on to Tuesday night in Hartford. Beat No. 22 South Florida, the only American Athletic Conference team that came within 20 points of them a season ago, and the Huskies match their own NCAA record of 90 consecutive wins set between Nov. 16, 2008 and Dec. 30, 2010. Beyond South Florida is a game on Jan. 14 against SMU in Dallas (ESPN3, 3 p.m. ET), site of April's Final Four, for sole possession of the record.
The focus in the week ahead will, of course, be on those large numbers: 90 and 91. And any winning streak in college sports, if it lasts long enough, will become the property of a lot of players. Many of those who start it will not be around to see its conclusion. In this case, only four Huskies who played in a win against Creighton to start the streak remain: Saniya Chong, Tierney Lawlor, Kia Nurse and Williams. That doesn't diminish the accomplishment. "Hamilton" isn't any less sold out because some of the cast changed.
It just means it isn't the only streak worth talking about.
In many ways, the fascinating thing about this current group of Huskies isn't the 89-game winning streak. It is the 14-game winning streak entirely of their own creation.
The season after Diana Taurasi exited with the last of her championships, UConn lost eight games. The season after Maya Moore departed, the team that remained lost five games. Even by UConn standards, those hardly qualify as lean times. All the same, the losses in each of those two seasons exceeded the combined losses in the three preceding seasons.
In other words, UConn's standard of excellence over the past two-plus decades has proved difficult for anyone to match -- sometimes even UConn.
Yet the current team has surprised many, including its own coach -- "I'm probably the most surprised person in the country. I set the schedule up so this wouldn't happen. ... I'm flabbergasted," Geno Auriemma said after UConn's win over Maryland on Dec. 29 -- by coming close enough to that standard to win on the road at Florida State, Notre Dame and Maryland, and in its own state against Baylor, Ohio State and Texas. All six teams remain ranked in the top 15.
A schedule designed to snap the streak has not because Napheesa Collier, Nurse, Katie Lou Samuelson and Williams are doing something more interesting than becoming a coda to history. Those four, who combined for 66 points on 27-of-43 shooting against East Carolina, are defying history as much as partaking in it. They don't seem inclined to take a step back.
In its own, admittedly less compelling, way, Wednesday was more of the same. East Carolina isn't going to the Final Four, but it at least has a winning record. UConn picked it apart. It took the Huskies three passes and nine seconds to find a shooter open on the wing, exposing an overcommitted defender the first chance they got. Chong hit the 3-pointer.
After a rebound on their first defensive set, the Huskies got their second basket off three passes, the ball hitting the floor just twice on its way into Williams' hands for a layup.
When East Carolina finally got its first field goal on a well-executed backdoor play nearly six minutes into the game, Nurse hit a 3-pointer barely 10 seconds later. And so it went.
At halftime, his team up 45-20, Auriemma called it the best start to a game this season.
UConn trailed Chattanooga midway through the first quarter of a game after Thanksgiving. It led a rebuilding Dayton by double digits for just 20 seconds in the first quarter and traded baskets early with unranked LSU.
Those descriptions aren't out of the ordinary for most teams. UConn isn't most teams. In winning more than 100 consecutive games against unranked teams, it puts them down early.
Like the Huskies did against East Carolina.
Tied to Moriah Jefferson, Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, the classmates who were part of four consecutive national championships and closed their careers with 75 wins in a row, Collier, Nurse, Samuelson and Williams can almost never be more than understudies. The longest winning streak in the history of the sport is an epic story, but they are supporting characters. But hints of weariness, quickly hidden beneath polite answers, that flash across their faces when asked the inevitable questions about the streak suggest they understand this all too well.
Everyone at UConn answers questions about those who came before them.
But for 14 games, most far more competitive than Wednesday, they are inviting questions about who they are. In all four cases the daughters or siblings of Division I basketball players, they have in some ways prepared their whole lives for the roles they now have.
"They've only played 14 games, so let's not get ahead of ourselves," Auriemma said in an on-court television interview after the game. "But right now, I would say, that core group of four, I don't know who in the country is playing better than they are."
Well enough to put together an impressive winning streak.
Even if it isn't the streak we're all talking about.