Mississippi State out to take best shot vs. UConn

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

DALLAS -- Mississippi State is next in line.

Most college basketball fans likely will assume that the Bulldogs are simply the next team on an endless conveyor belt as the Connecticut women's team adds to epic winning streak.

The Huskies have won 111 straight games, a streak that dates to a two-point loss at Stanford in November 2014.

Connecticut has also won four consecutive national championships, producing a streak of eight straight victories at the Final Four.

"It just seems like it gets harder and harder to believe because it is getting harder and harder to accomplish this," Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said. "The teams that you have to beat year in and year out are getting better and better."

The Huskies (36-0), who are making their 10th consecutive Final Four appearance, face Mississippi State (33-4) in the second game of a semifinal doubleheader on Friday night at American Airlines Center.

For the Bulldogs, being next in line means being the next team to take on a monumental challenge with equally huge rewards should they find a way to win.

If Connecticut wins, the Huskies will take aim at their fifth straight national title against the winner of Stanford and South Carolina.

If Mississippi State wins, the Bulldogs will have claimed their place in college basketball lore, whether or not they go on to win the championship.

But despite all of that drama, Mississippi State coach Vic Schaefer will try to prepare his team like it's just another big game. Most recently, the Bulldogs were the No. 2 seed in the Oklahoma City Region when they ousted top-seeded Baylor 94-85 on Monday night.

In doing so, Mississippi State earned the right to be the Huskies' next target.

"Even though the numbers or the names may change, (Connecticut) just keeps rolling," Schaefer said. "So I think our kids understand that. At the same time, we know we can't really get caught up in the whole UConn thing. We've got to do what we do. We've got to be more concerned, I think, about Mississippi State than we do about anything else."

Mississippi State has seen the Huskies close up, though it probably won't help the Bulldogs' confidence much.

Connecticut destroyed Mississippi State 98-38 in the Sweet 16 last season. Senior forwards Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck combined for 41 points and 20 rebounds for the Huskies.

Sophomore guard Katie Lou Samuelson scored 21 a year ago versus Mississippi State, and that might be why Schaefer views the Huskies as being much the same now as they were then.

"Now, the fact of the matter is UConn may not have the same personnel, but they're still the same, you know, dominating UConn program," Schaefer said. "They're a well-oiled machine. They have tremendous chemistry."

On the inside, Auriemma can see that his current squad has had to fight a little harder to stay unbeaten this season.

"You don't have the luxury that they had last year of, 'Well, if I play great, we win by a lot. If I don't play great, we win by almost a lot,'" Auriemma said. "That was the world they lived in. Now you're asking them to go immediately to, 'If I don't play great, we're going to lose.' So generally you have to suffer a little bit and lose a little bit to have that realization hit home. But for these kids, they showed a maturity that I didn't know if they had or not. They looked around and made a quick decision early on, 'It's on all of us.' They all took responsibility. That's why we had the success that we had."