UConn tops UCLA, beats Florida St, 93-62
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — No. 89 came and went as effortlessly as nearly all their previous games. This season. Last season. And the season before.
UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, never at a loss for words, was close Tuesday night.
“It’s pretty amazing. It really is,” he said.
No exaggeration there.
His No. 1-ranked Huskies topped the 88-game winning streak set by John Wooden’s UCLA men’s team from 1971-74, beating No. 22 Florida State 93-62. Playing with the relentlessness that has become its trademark — and would have made Wooden proud — UConn blew past the Seminoles as it has so many other teams in the last 21⁄2 years.
“I don’t want my team to compare themselves to anyone,” Auriemma said. “I’m not John Wooden and this isn’t UCLA. This is Connecticut and that’s good enough.”
Maya Moore had a career-high 41 points and 10 rebounds and freshman Bria Hartley added 21 points for the Huskies, who have not lost since April 6, 2008, in the NCAA tournament semifinals. Only twice during the record run has a team come within single digits of UConn — Stanford in the NCAA championship game last season and Baylor in early November.
When the final buzzer sounded, UConn players sprinted across the floor to shake hands with the student section as fans held up “89” signs and “89” balloons bobbed in the stands behind center court. Two other fans raised a banner that read “The Sorcerer of Storrs” — a play on Wooden’s nickname, “The Wizard of Westwood.”
After a brief huddle in front of their bench, UConn players re-emerged wearing “89 and Counting” T-shirts. As fans roared, the players bounced around at center court before posing for photos.
It is one more chapter of history for UConn, and perhaps the grandest.
Asked what he would recall from the incredible run, Auriemma mentioned a pair of experienced stars on this team: “I’ll probably remember Maya Moore and Tiffany Hayes. And how incredibly difficult it is to play that many games in a row and win ’em all.”
Connecticut long ago established itself as the marquee program in the women’s game, the benchmark by which all others are measured. The Huskies already own seven national titles and four perfect seasons under Auriemma, and they’ve produced a galaxy of stars that includes Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi, Jennifer Rizzotti, Sue Bird and Tina Charles.
The streak, though, takes it to another level, certainly raising the profile of women’s basketball and maybe all of women’s athletics.
Two days after beating No. 11 Ohio State to tie UCLA, UConn toppled the mark in front of a sellout crowd of 16,294 at the XL Center that included Wooden’s grandson, Greg, attending his first women’s game.
“My grandfather would have been thrilled. He would have been absolutely thrilled to see his streak broken by a women’s basketball team,” the 47-year-old Wooden said. “He thought, especially in the last 10 years, that the best basketball was played at the collegiate level — and it wasn’t by the men.”
John Wooden was 99 when he died on June 4.
There was a festive atmosphere throughout the city, where building lights gleamed blue and white, and it was as electric as any Final Four inside the arena. Charles and UConn men’s star Kemba Walker sat behind the Huskies’ bench, and football coach Randy Edsall was there, too. Former NFL star Warrick Dunn, meanwhile, was cheering for his alma mater, Florida State.