Tulane forward Tene Thompson remembers it as if it were yesterday.
The Green Wave lost by just three points at home to No. 1-ranked Connecticut, which entered the game on an NCAA-record 100-game winning streak that was one of the greatest accomplishments in sports history. The margin was the second-closest by any opponent during the streak and the closest by an American Athletic Conference foe.
“I have never received so many congratulations for a loss,” said Thompson, a 5-foot-11 junior who came off the bench to score 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
Her defense also played a part in Tulane holding UConn to a season-low 38.0 percent (19-of-50) shooting. Thompson blocked a layup attempt by Huskies All-America forward Katie Lou Samuelson, the very mention of which still brings a smile.
A year and three days later, the Huskies (26-0, 13-0), who have never lost an AAC game, are back, again ranked No. 1 in the nation in women's college basketball. Thompson says things seem similar.
“Just like last year, we wen up to their place, and they gave us a blowout (98-54 on Jan. 27),” she said. “I'm just hoping we have he same response we had last year.”
Coach Lisa Stockton received emails, texts and facebook congratulations for days as well as kudos from the national media after the 63-60 loss by a team that entered the game 16-10 overall and 7-6 in the conference. Cconnecticut was 25-0 and had not lost since Nov. 17, 2014.
“Probably the biggest thing is our kids played loose and tried to have fun and enjoy the experience instead of worrying about the outcome,” said Stockton. “I think what happened was we played (closely to) them for one quarter, then another quarter. Then you get in the fourth quarter, you have a chance.”
Thompson said there was a “weird” feeling before tipoff, like it was just another game. She said social media also entered into the game, which was on a Saturday evening.
“We saw that they were out in the city touring,” she said. “French Quarter, something like that. We saw it on Twitter or something, and we were like, 'Oh, wow! They're going to come and think they can just have us like that?”
More important, Huskies starting point guard Kia Nurse sat out the game with an injured ankle and was replaced by Crystal Dangerfield. UConn, which had come off a big nationally televised win against No 2-ranked South Carolina, committed an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers against Tulane.
The Wave entered that game after back-to-back conference wins. This time things are different. Tulane has lost five of its past six games, including Sunday at Memphis in which the Tigers had just five players.
That was the latest in a season in which Stockton has been very disappointed of late in her team's lack of fight. A loss Wednesday night by Tulane (12-14, 4-9) would clinch its worst conference record since joining the AAC for the 2014-15 season. And, needing a winning record to be eligible for the WNIT, a loss also would end eight consecutive postseason berths, barring a miracle run in the AAC tournament.
After last year's game, Tulane ended the season by losing its final two regular-season games then its opening game in the conference tournament. It did win two games in the WNIT before losing in the third round for the second consecutive season.
Stockton said the emotional game against Connecticut and all the attention after did not take anything out of her team.
“We were sitting on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, and we lost three really close games (by a total of 10 points),” she said. “We just didn't have enough to finish them. I don't think it had anything to do with the UConn game.”
Connecticut had won four consecutive NCAA championships with All-Americans Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck and Moriah Jefferson. Last year, with the trio having graduated and the Huskies' shroud of invincibility taken off by Tulane, UConn lost in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.
Stockton said it's a new day now, and she has a lot of players who weren't in the mix in last year's game. Thompson, however, said Tulane needs another close game against Connecticut, win or lose. After the embarrassing loss to Memphis, Stockton's hurt and disappointment was clear for the Wave to see.
“I think (a good performance) would make us feel like we did something,” Thompson said. “That would mean a lot, just for our morale, confidence, just everything.”