AP Basketball Writer
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Geno Auriemma and his UConn Huskies haven’t watched last season’s Final Four loss to Mississippi State. They are focusing on the future more than dwelling on the past.
“I haven’t watched the game, but I’m sure I will at some point,” Auriemma said. “They are probably right saying they want to move forward and want a fresh start. I think that’s good. However, there is going to come a time when they will have to face up to what happened. What things were out of our control and what things were in our control. There are things you can’t pretend didn’t happen.”
His players took the most important lesson from the loss: They hate to lose.
“We could watch it, analyze it, but the biggest takeaway is how we all felt and we never want to be in that position again,” said Katie Lou Samuelson. “We just have to learn from it and we want to have a fresh start, not get too caught up on the past. It will fuel us as we go forward.”
Teammate Gabby Williams was more succinct on the defeat that shocked the women’s basketball world.
“That was an awful feeling and we never want to feel like that again,” she said.
Samuelson, Williams, Napheesa Collier and Azura Stevens sat down with The Associated Press during the Under-23 USA Basketball training camp on Tuesday. The four players can’t play on the U23 team that will head to Tokyo for a tournament because the Huskies are going to Italy at the same time.
Still, having a chance to compete with the best college players in the country, including two from Mississippi State, wasn’t lost on them.
“It’s been great so far playing with people who you play against during the year,” Collier said. “I’ve played with some of them before on other USA Basketball teams.”
This week is the first competitive basketball the players have had since the last-second overtime loss to Mississippi State that ended the Huskies’ record 111-game winning streak.
The Huskies will get an early jump on the upcoming season when they start practice Saturday to prepare for the trip to Italy.
“We’re getting together early and will have the head start and get to know each other earlier,” Williams said. “The first few practices are the hardest practices of the year, so to get that over with is good for us.”
Auriemma likes that he will be able to put his new players in situations they may face down the road.
“We have four freshmen and two transfers who haven’t played yet,” he said. “This will give them the chance to get their feet wet.”
The Huskies still have one major streak left that won’t be on the line during the exhibition tour in Italy. They haven’t lost consecutive games since 1992-93. No current player on the Huskies’ roster was even alive the last time that happened.
UConn will open up the 2017-18 season against Ohio State. This group of Huskies doesn’t plan on seeing that streak end.
“Stewie said it my freshman year. You don’t want to play us after we lose,” Williams said, referring to former Huskies star Breanna Stewart. “We’ll come back as a force. It speaks to the culture of the program. We don’t like to lose. We don’t dwell on it, we don’t look back. It doesn’t become a snowball effect. We see what went wrong and fix it.”
The Huskies added a very solid player in Stevens, who sat out last year after transferring from Duke. It was difficult for her to watch her teammates lose in the national semifinals.
“It was really hard. Most people don’t see how hard they work and don’t understand,” Stevens said. “To see that and then see the outcome was tough. This summer was really, really good. We had discussions about it, but we didn’t harp on it. You can see changes in how people worked.”
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