UConn's march into history raises question: Are Huskies too good?
Coach Geno Auriemma doesn't like to talk about UConn's win streak, now at 71
But junior Maya Moore says the players are aware "how special our team is"
Some, like Rutgers' Vivian Stringer, wonder if UConn's dominance hurts the sport
HARTFORD, Conn. --- As Geno Auriemma left the locker room with his assistants for the second half of a game that was much closer than anyone in the state of Connecticut had imagined, the UConn coach could not resist mocking the monster he's created over the past two seasons.
"Come on, it's impossible for us to lose, right?" Auriemma announced to his staff. "There's just no way. We're going to win 97 in a row, right? Do you know how easy it is? Do you know? All you have to do is listen to what everybody says."
It wasn't easy Monday night. Holding a three-point lead at halftime against a gritty Notre Dame team, UConn rode improved second-half shooting and another standout game from All-America senior center Tina Charles (16 points, 17 rebounds) to a 59-44 victory in the Big East tournament semifinals at the XL Center in Hartford. The win set a new Division I NCAA record for most consecutive victories, with 71.
"We know how special our team is, and we know what kind of special thing we've got going the past couple of years," said junior forward Maya Moore, who finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
Barring a Buster Douglas-like performance from West Virginia in the final of the Big East Tournament, UConn will win No. 72 shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday. If the team cuts down the nets at the national championship in San Antonio on April 6, it will enter next season on a 78-game winning streak.
"The talent pool that he has and continues to recruit is dominant," Tennessee coach Pat Summitt told SI.com by phone from the SEC Tournament. "We're seeing history in the making. It's all about getting great players, and then obviously he is a very talented coach and a great motivator."
Auriemma has been loath to talk about the streak this season, and the Connecticut media are conditioned not to expect a direct answer from the coach or one without a healthy dose of righteous indifference. UConn changed nothing about its usual pregame routine Monday night. The team arrived at XL Center 90 minutes before tipoff and went about its business. About the only thing Auriemma did to tempt fate was park in a spot with No. 13 on it. (Auriemma: "I said, 'Screw it. I'm spitting in the face of superstition.' Then at halftime I was like, 'Go move my car.'")
Auriemma did admit after the game that he has carried a book by John Wooden in his briefcase for the past year, but for no reason other than he admires the UCLA coach. "I look through millions of things all year long to get an idea here and there, but for some reason this has stayed in my briefcase," he said.
"He is perhaps the most superstitious coach in college basketball when it comes to discussing the future," said Hartford Courant reporter John Altavilla, who has covered every game of the streak. "He does not like to test fate by talking about records. His face actually looks pained when he's forced to."
That makes him similar to Summitt, who said she never talked about her streak when Tennessee won 46 consecutive games between 1996 and 1998. "I never really even thought about it, because I didn't know when the loss would come," Summitt said. "We had a focused group and kept things in perspective."
Of course, it's hard to keep perspective when you look at the bulging numbers. The Huskies have won all 71 consecutive games by double digits, with an average margin of victory of 32.5 points. During the streak UConn is 23-0 against teams ranked in the Top 25 and 13-0 against teams in the Top 10. Two teams (Rutgers and Notre Dame) kept the defeat to 10 points last season. The closest game this season was an 80-68 win over No. 2 Stanford on December 23.
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