If you haven’t noticed by now these are strange times in the Big East conference. Institutions are entering and exiting faster than weather patterns across the national map.
Here is startling example of how topsy-turvy things have become: Look at this morning’s women’s basketball standings.
Seton Hall (1-0) is ahead of UConn (0-1) in the conference standings.
This is a clear throwback to the 1980s, as nostalgic as if Geno Auriemma grew a mullet prior to the Huskies’ game at Georgetown on Wednesday.
Take a picture for posterity. You may not see it again for quite some time, especially now that Lady Pirates coach Anne Donovan is coming to Connecticut to coach in the WNBA.
However, one day of it is likely enough for UConn. And “one” is the theme after the Huskies lost their Big East opener Saturday to Notre Dame.
UConn lost by one point, 73-72. They lost because Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis’ last-chance three from the right corner with six seconds to play didn’t drop.
They lost one point when a three made by Bria Hartley at the end of the first half was changed to a two. They were outrebounded by one.
They had one more personal foul than Notre Dame. The Irish made one more three and had one more offensive rebound.
“We were mirror images of each other,” Auriemma said.
Who knows how one switch in any of those stats, in any one sequence, could have changed the game.
But now, UConn’s one-week reign as the nation’s consensus No. 1 team is over.
“We still have a lot of practices and a lot of games left,” Stefanie Dolson said. “We are going to get better from here.”
Perhaps the most telling comment in the rush of the postgame was offered by Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame’s All-American senior guard.
She said that her team, which has now won five of the last six games against UConn, was “not afraid” of the UConn jersey, one of the major advantages the Huskies have enjoyed over their opponents during the championship era.
“They [Notre Dame] did a great job of just being tough,” Dolson said. “They were physical down low. Their guards were pressuring our guards. They just played very good defense, took charges when they needed to. I don’t know what else to say.”
Miami is the last team to beat Connecticut five times in a six-game stretch (1992-94).
Should this trend continues, UConn’s task down the stretch may be tougher than anyone has anticipated. It plays Notre Dame on March 4 in South Bend to end the regular season.
And if the tradition continues, the teams will play again March 12 in Hartford for the Big East tournament title. That would be their 14th meeting since the start of the 2010-11 season.
“I was just really pleased with our grit, our determination,” Notre Dame coach McGraw said. “We came out and played pretty well in the first half. Then, they made a couple of runs, and I thought we answered them. We kind of held our own. We went toe-to-toe with them. We took their best shot a couple of times. They made a little bit of a run on occasion, and we were able to come back.”
Diggins and junior Kayla McBride killed UConn by combining for the 40 points. Like Bria Hartley (39 minutes), Dolson and Kelly Faris (40 minutes), they were there for every just about every beat of the pulsating game.
And even though McBride and Diggins combined to shoot just 14-of-36, they seemed to scored every point Notre Dame needed when it needed to be scored.
“They are two great guards,” Auriemma said.
Meanwhile, three of UConn’s stars were crossed on Saturday.
Caroline Doty, who played perhaps her best game ever at Oregon on Dec. 31, seemed to hurt her right ankle early in the game and did not score in 10 minutes.
Hartley, who played just seven minutes at Oregon on Dec. 31, scored just nine points and had almost as many turnovers (four) as assists.
And Breanna Stewart, the nation’s top high school player last season, showed some inexperience offensively, shooting 5 of 17 in 22 minutes. But she did have nine rebounds and six blocked shots.
“I wouldn’t say I am annoyed about what happened,” said Dolson, who shared UConn’s scoring lead with Mosqueda-Lewis (17 points). “Notre Dame came out ready to fight and be strong. And so did we. Things just went their way.
“No, I am not annoyed. But I am angry and I am mad now [Saturday night], I will mad in the morning and I will mad in two weeks. I am mad that we lost and so is everyone on the team.”
And now there will be a new No. 1, which doesn’t bother UConn because being on top of the world didn’t thrill it to begin with.
“I don’t care about [being] No. 1, either,” McGraw said.