A threat to UConn's streak

Six-foot-8 Brittney Griner is averaging 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists for 3-0 Baylor. Top-ranked UConn puts its 79-game winning streak on the line tonight against the No. 2 Lady Bears.
Six-foot-8 Brittney Griner is averaging 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists for 3-0 Baylor. Top-ranked UConn puts its 79-game winning streak on the line tonight against the No. 2 Lady Bears. Jerry Larson, Waco Tribune Herald/Associated Press

Storrs - The only time during all of this that UConn coach Geno Auriemma has mentioned The Streak to his team was during last season's national championship game, at which point the Huskies had 12 points, trailing Stanford after a non-existent offensive half of basketball.

"I said, 'I think the streak is getting to you guys,'" Auriemma said. "'You have to win 20 minutes. Don't worry about the streak.'"

UConn came back to win that game, its 78th straight for those who were counting.

The top-ranked Huskies added a 79th in a row on Sunday, a 117-37 season-opening romp over Holy Cross, in which UConn's Tiffany Hayes scored a career-high 32 points.

And so while in some ways Auriemma wishes people weren't adding up all the victories, with a great number of the players from two straight back-to-back 39-0 seasons having graduated by now, there's a matter of a game today against No. 2 Baylor and 6-foot-8 center Brittney Griner (6 p.m., XL Center, ESPN2).

If UConn wins, it keeps its streak. A loss and the longest winning streak of all-time in women's basketball, which is threatening the men's record of 88 in a row held by UCLA, is history.

Auriemma was asked his thoughts on the matter.

"It's been great. If we lose Tuesday, it's still great," he said. "If it keeps going, I'm fine with it. I know it's going to end. It's just a matter of when."

He points out that this group of freshmen - he reportedly threw all five of them out of practice Saturday - has won one game in a row. Nothing more.

"Samarie Walker doesn't know any one of our plays," he said. "This is not their streak. It doesn't make sense to me. … DiMaggio got all 56 hits himself. He didn't stop at 40 and somebody else got the other 16."

UConn defeated Baylor in last year's national semifinals in San Antonio 70-50. Ultimately the Final Four Most Outstanding Player after UConn won its seventh national championship by beating Stanford, Maya Moore had 34 points and 12 rebounds. Griner had 13 points, six rebounds and five blocks.

The teams are meeting today in the State Farm Women's Tip-Off Classic, with Baylor coming off playing three games in three days in the World Vision Classic at home in Waco, Texas.

Griner is going to be "a lot of work" to guard, Auriemma said, with UConn having to replace graduated All-America center Tina Charles, who fought the bulk of the battle against Griner last year. This season, UConn has 6-5 freshman Stefanie Dolson and 6-3 redshirt sophomore Heather Buck, who made her first career start Sunday.

"We need to have a plan A, B and C. Hopefully you don't have to use B and C," Auriemma said of stopping Griner, who he joked may surpass the 31-point, 31-rebound performance turned in last week by Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves. "There's just no easy answer to the question she poses."

Griner averaged 16 points and nine rebounds in her team's three games over the weekend, with 12 blocked shots, finishing the Bears' opener against Florida International with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Melissa Jones averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds and sophomore forward Brooklyn Pope, a Rutgers transfer, 10 points and 8.3 rebounds.

"I can't choose," said Hayes, UConn's junior guard, when asked whether Griner presents a bigger challenge on offense or defense. "I would say both. None of my teammates or me can match her size; she definitely alters a lot of shots. She's a great player on offense."

With regard to the streak, Auriemma always goes back to the example of former UConn three-time All-American Svetlana Abrosimova, who one time asked him why he talked so much during the season about wanting to win a national championship. Why not just know that's the goal in the first place and go do it?

"From our point of view, if we win or lose, we still have a chance to accomplish our goal at the end of the season, to win a national championship," UConn's Moore said, adding that of course the Huskies would like to beat Baylor. "… If you're a competitor, it's going to mean the world to you. You want to go out and compete."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

UCONN'S HISTORY IN NO. 1 VS. NO. 2 GAMES

Season Opponent Result

1994-95 No. 1 Tennessee W, 77-66 (H)

1998-99 No. 2 Tennessee L, 92-81 (H)

1999-00 No. 2 Tennessee W, 74-67 (A)

1999-00 No. 2 Tennessee W, 71-52 (N)

2000-01 No. 2 Tennessee W, 81-76 (H)

2000-01 No. 1 Notre Dame W, 78-76 (H)

2000-01 No. 1 Notre Dame L, 90-75 (N)

2001-02 No. 2 Tennessee W, 86-72 (A)

2001-02 No. 2 Oklahoma W, 82-70 (N)

2002-03 No. 1 Duke W, 77-65 (A)

2008-09 No. 2 N. Carolina W, 88-58 (A)

2008-09 No. 2 Stanford W, 83-64 (N)

2009-10 No. 2 Stanford W, 80-68 (H)

2009-10 No. 2 Stanford W, 53-47 (N)

(H) - home game; (A) - away game; (N) - NCAA tournament game

Heather Buck, a 6-foot-3 redshirt sophomore from Stonington, will likely spend some time guarding Baylor star center Brittney Griner tonight when the top-ranked Huskies face the No. 2 Lady Bears at the XL Center.
Heather Buck, a 6-foot-3 redshirt sophomore from Stonington, will likely spend some time guarding Baylor star center Brittney Griner tonight when the top-ranked Huskies face the No. 2 Lady Bears at the XL Center. Sean D. Elliot/The Day Buy Photo
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