Wednesday, December 29, 2010

UConn women redefine sports dominance

UConn women redefine sports dominance
Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for
Dec 22, 2010


The ball may be an inch smaller and a couple ounces lighter, the players may not jump as high or even run quite as fast as the men. But there are still fast breaks, crisp passes, jumpers from beyond the 3-point line and even blocked shots.

Contrary to what some have chosen to believe, it is actually the same game.

Two baskets, a ball and five players on each side.

The UConn women won their 89th consecutive game Tuesday night in Hartford, Conn., with a resounding 93-62 victory over No. 22 Florida State. Whether or not you choose to believe it broke UCLA’s men’s streak of 88 straight victories from 1971-74, it’s impossible to discount — and difficult to truly fathom — what the Huskies have done over the past two-plus seasons.

UConn is looking for its third consecutive national title and the last time this program tasted defeat was way back on April 6, 2008 — an 82-73 loss to Stanford in the national semifinals.

But it’s not just the wins. It’s how the Huskies have done it that makes this streak so eye-popping.

Maya Moore and Co. have trailed for a mind-boggling minuscule total of 13 minutes, 21 seconds in the second half since The Road to 89 began — and more than 10 minutes of it came in a victory over No. 2 Baylor on Nov. 16.

The 31-point margin against Florida State was actually less than the 33 points-per-game margin the Huskies have averaged throughout the stretch. Even against ranked teams, UConn has won by nearly 25 points per contest.

"Mind-boggling,” Florida State coach Sue Semrau said after becoming victim No. 89.

It’s difficult to compare the current string of wins put together by the Huskies and the UCLA men.

"I don't want my team to compare themselves to anyone," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the win. "I'm not John Wooden, and this isn't UCLA. This is Connecticut, and that's good enough."

They are both amazing feats of complete dominance.

It’s difficult to imagine a more complete basketball player than Moore — whatever gender. The 6-foot senior forward is as smart and heady as just about any male counterpart in the game right now. She can shoot it from deep, get to the basket, distribute the ball, plus rebound and defend.

At one point, the score looked like this: Florida State 27, Moore 26.

Moore finished with a career-high 41 points. She made 15 of 24 shots from the field, was 10 of 11 from the foul line, grabbed 10 rebounds and didn’t commit a single turnover.

Anyone — even former UCLA great Bill Walton — would gladly take those numbers.

Moore and her teammates celebrated on the court after the win, complete with T-shirts with “89 and Counting” on the front and plenty of photo opportunities.

President Barack Obama even interrupted Auriemma’s postgame news conference with a telephone call.

"We have not lost since you have been inaugurated,” Auriemma told him with a huge smile. "How 'bout we keep that stretch going for a couple more years?”

It sounds truly ridiculous, but as long as Moore is wearing a Huskies uniform, this team isn’t going to taste defeat.

UConn men’s star Kemba Walker told me prior to tip-off that the game would be over after 10 minutes. The score midway through the first half was 29-15, and Florida State didn’t have a chance.

Walker’s teammate, freshman Shabazz Napier — who has played pickup with Moore, believes she could play somewhere for a men’s Division I basketball program.

I went into the game thinking he was insane.

I left the Hartford Civic Center thinking Napier may be onto something.

"She’s been at her absolutely best when it was absolutely needed,” Auriemma said of his star senior. "I’ll always remember that and admire her for that.”

This UConn’s women’s team was able to capitalize on UCLA’s streak from more than one-quarter century ago. The outspoken Auriemma has been made out to be the bad guy because he’s brash — even arrogant.

But who can blame him.

The guy is 746-122 in 26 seasons at the helm, has won six national titles and appears to own a monopoly on women’s college basketball these days.

"Like it or not, we made you pay attention,” Auriemma said. "But don’t blame me. I’m just the messenger. We’re just out here to win games.”

And they have done that as well as anyone. Yes, even as well as Wooden’s UCLA teams in the early '70s.

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