Wednesday night, Villanova became the first team since 2013 to defeat Connecticut in conference play, ending a streak of 169 consecutive conference wins for the mighty Huskies.
The last time Villanova defeated UConn on the road in women’s basketball was 1993, when head coach Denise Dillon was in the midst of her Big 5 Hall of Fame playing career. Now, after leading the Wildcats to the 72-69 victory, Dillon joins Dawn Staley as the only two people to beat UConn as both a player and as a coach.
Entering Wednesday, Geno Auriemma’s Huskies had won 12 straight overall against the Wildcats and held a 38-6 margin in the all-time series. During that span, Villanova had lost to the Huskies by an average of 37.5 points.
“I’m extremely proud of our group,” said Dillon, “it’s a tough place to play, and they got the job done.”
Star junior Maddy Siegrist was the first to embrace her head coach once the clock struck zeroes.
“That’s something we’ll cherish forever as a team,” said Siegrist. “Whenever we walk around the halls of the Pavilion, there are pictures of those 2003 and 2004 teams that beat UConn, and every one of us wants to be like that. Everyone wants to beat UConn.”
Siegrist led the Wildcats to victory with a double-double, posting 17 points and 12 rebounds. Although she saw her streak of 30-point games snapped at three, she set a season-high in another category: minutes played. In fact, Siegrist played every second of the upset victory, which proved to be necessary as UConn had a chance to tie it on the final possession.
“I didn’t even realize I played the entire game until it was over,” said Siegrist. “That’s why you go for runs in the summer, to be ready to play 40 minutes if you have to.”
After starting the game on a 22-7 run, Villanova never trailed, extending its lead to as much as 19points late in the third quarter. UConn cut into the deficit in the fourth, making it a one-score game with under a minute remaining, but Villanova held on for the historic victory.
Although tension built as the lead grew thinner, the message was simple in Dillon’s huddle: the clock is on our side.
“Luckily, we put ourselves ahead enough that we were going to be able to win,” said Siegrist. “It was really tough when that crowd was going, but I think we really held our composure.”
Outside of snapping UConn’s 169-game winning streak, the Wildcats now find themselves tied for third in the Big East after their eighth straight win and 13th in the last 14 games. The streak has coincided with the Wildcats getting their full roster back from COVID-19 protocols in mid-January, and they have not looked back since.
While the victory has its own historical significance for the Wildcats, it also sends a larger message to the rest of the Big East. Finally, the win serves as the signature one that Villanova badly needed to cement its NCAA Tournament resume, as the Wildcats look to reach the Big Dance for the first time since 2018.
The Wildcats won’t have much time to soak in their success at Connecticut, as they are back in action Friday night against Marquette at Finneran Pavilion. The winner will move into sole possession of third place in the conference, while the Cats can also extend their winning streak to nine games, a mark they have not matched since 2017.
For Siegrist and the rest of the team, however, the mentality remains the same.
“I think you just take it one game at a time,” said Siegrist. “We’ve got to worry about Marquette, and I think you try not to look too far away, especially once you get to the [Big East] tournament.”