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From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED January 20, 2003
DIANA TAURASI KEEPS DOING ASTOUNDING things, and Connecticut keeps winning basketball games, and everywhere the junior guard goes she hears the same thing. You play like a man. Which leads to a question: Does she take that as a compliment? ¶ On a January evening Taurasi is driving her well-traveled 2000 Ford Explorer with fellow junior guard Morgan Valley. It is just five days after the pulsating, nationally televised game against Tennessee in which Taurasi sank a 60-foot shot at the end of the first half, buried a three-pointer to force a tie in regulation and scored the winning points in overtime, giving then No. 2 UConn its 51st straight victory, three shy of the NCAA women's record set by Louisiana Tech in the 1981-82 season.
"Whaddya think, Mo?" Taurasi asks Valley. "Somebody says, 'You play like a man.' Compliment?"
Mo knows. She knows that Taurasi's childhood heroes were MJ and Magic, not Cynthia Cooper, not Lisa Leslie. She knows Taurasi claims to have read only one book first page to last—Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court, by John Wooden. She knows that Taurasi came from the town of Chino, in sunny Southern California, to the icy Storrs campus not because she wanted to follow in the footsteps of the great Lady Huskies but because in the cozy Nutmeg State, Huskies basketball is Showtime, for the men's and the women's teams.
Valley, a shy Vermonter, raises her voice above the rap on the car radio and says, "When they say, 'D plays like a dude,' that's the ultimate."
"You got it, Mo," Taurasi says. "The best players in the world are men, so why wouldn't you want to play like them?"
The quality Taurasi shares most with, say, Michael Jordan is that she hates to lose. She turns games into wars. You can't readily see it, because she masks her attitude with Magic Johnson's joie de basketball. Still, chances are good that you will lose to Taurasi in H-O-R-S-E, or in arm wrestling, or in PlayStation football. Pretty much, you're not going to beat her at anything. Connecticut is 108-4 since Taurasi's arrival in the fall of 2000.
In '01-02 the Huskies won every game and the NCAA title. Going into this season Taurasi was the only returning starter. The '02-03 Huskies, though lumbering and inexperienced, won their first 11 games, against mostly submissive teams.
Then came Jan. 4, at the Hartford Civic Center, and their first real test, against Tennessee. In OT, with UConn down 62-61, Taurasi drove the lane, stopped and swished the game-winner, a 10-foot leaner with 51.6 seconds left.
Two weeks later she had 22 points and eight rebounds in a 72-49 victory over Georgetown that gave the Huskies their 55th consecutive win, eclipsing the Louisiana Tech record. The Huskies won 15 more games before the streak ended at 70.