Nov. 22, 2010
ATLANTA (AP) -Eighty-one and counting.
Connecticut is sitting on another milestone, having tied the record for most consecutive victories at any level of NCAA women’s college basketball, and the Huskies surely will have that mark all to themselves after they meet Howard on Friday night.
Then it’s on to No. 88, the run put together by the UCLA men in the 1970s and still one of the most famous numbers in sports.
Coach Geno Auriemma and his players are trying to stay in the moment, insisting the only game they’re worried about is the next one. But there’s no getting around the persistent questions about The Streak, especially as the Huskies keep reaching one iconic number after another. The 81st win tied Washington University, a Division III school, for the longest winning streak in women’s hoops.
“When it’s over, I’ll have a lot of say about it,” Auriemma promised after the latest triumph, a 20-point blowout at Georgia Tech on Sunday. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I’ve been thinking about what I’ll say when it’s over. I’ll address a lot of things when it’s over.”
He promises a no-holds-barred retrospective, in keeping with his reputation as a fiery, outspoken coach who’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way along the way.
“Whoever doesn’t like me now is really not going to like me when it ends,” Auriemma said. “I don’t care if it ends at 88 or 98 or 108 or 81. When it ends, I’ll have a lot to say that I haven’t said the last two years.”
Well, that should be interesting.
But we may have to wait awhile for Geno Uncensored.
Coming off consecutive 39-0 seasons, the Huskies are off to a 3-0 start that includes a close call – a 65-64 win over No. 2 Baylor last week – and an easy 71-51 win over Georgia Tech, a game that was basically nothing more than a Maya Moore lovefest. The UConn star scored 30 points in a dazzling return to her hometown, playing before hundreds of family and friends.
Moore was in no mood to discuss The Streak, either.
“We’re not focused on that,” she said. “That’s not something that’s at the forefront of our minds. What we value is this team, this season, right now. All we can control are the games that are happening right before us this season. There’s plenty of room for improvement. We want to focus on those improvements.”
The upcoming schedule doesn’t look too imposing. Next weekend, the Huskies will host the World Vision Classic, beginning with Friday night’s game against Howard, which has lost twice by an average of 24 points. The following night, UConn will take on Lehigh (1-2), which lost its last game at home by 17 points.
The next serious test for the Huskies is likely to come Sunday, when they wrap up the tournament against LSU (2-2). The Lady Tigers are a perennial Southeastern Conference power and one of their losses was a four-point squeaker against No. 7 Ohio State. Still, UConn will be a solid favorite.
That said, Auriemma knows every opponent has the added incentive of wanting to be the one that ends The Streak.
“I’m using the streak in my own mind as the greatest thing to ever happen for the next team we play,” he said. “Everyone wants to be the one that does it. They’re all saying, ‘Here they come. Let’s get ‘em.’ For me, the streak is who’s getting to enjoy it next. Right now, that’s Howard. They’re the happiest team in America.”
UConn doesn’t have the same powerhouse roster that dominated opponents the last two years.
“We can look really, really good,” Auriemma said. “Then we’re going to go through stretches where we just don’t look like a very good basketball team. We’ve been able to win both kinds of games. That’s a good sign. But we just need more experience.”
The Huskies are starting two freshmen, guard Bria Hartley and center Stephanie Dolson, along with sophomore guard Kelly Faris. But as long as they have Moore, the 6-foot senior who is simply one of the best players in the world – amateur or professional – they’ll have a legitimate chance to keep The Streak going against any team on the schedule.
“She puts that team on her back and carries them,” Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said.
The next six games are against unranked teams. If UConn wins them all, that would be at 87 in a row.
And who would that leave for No. 88? Ohio State, a fellow top-10 team. At New York’s Madison Square Garden, no less, on Dec. 19.
Auriemma is holding his tongue – for now.
“Someone asked how our young girls are handling it,” he said. “If you don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist. It’s not going on. We just ignore it. There’s so many others things I have to worry about with this group. The whole streak thing is not a high priority.”