Huskies are on the cusp of history
Storrs — There will be no national championship trophy awarded at the end of today's game.
UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma is quick to point out that if his top-ranked team should lose today against No. 11 Ohio State, ending a much-talked-about 87-game winning streak, the season will go on as scheduled Tuesday night against Florida State.
But it's hard to imagine more hype for a game than this one, with the glare of national media attention to be focused squarely on New York City's Madison Square Garden, where more than 13,000 tickets were sold as of Friday to see the top-ranked and unbeaten Huskies take on Ohio State (2:30 p.m., ESPNU), history on the line, in a building that's the basketball version of Broadway.
A win for UConn (9-0) would be its 88th in a row, tying it with the UCLA men (1971-74) for the most consecutive Division I basketball victories in history.
A win today would disrupt ESPN's broadcast schedule, causing the network to switch Tuesday's game to ESPN2 from ESPNU so that more viewers have access.
A win today would reportedly mean a trip to the XL Center in Hartford for Greg Wooden, the grandson of late UCLA men's coach John Wooden, who died earlier this year at the age of 99.
Just another day at the office, right?
"The kids from Ohio State are trying to convince themselves that this is just another game for them and they're out of their minds," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said this week. "'We're going to play on national television at Madison Square Garden against a team that's won 87 in a row and we're going to sleep the same way the night before like we're playing at Iowa.' I don't think so."
The same holds true for UConn's players, however, including five freshmen, a few of whom practiced over the recent exam break "like they've seen a ghost," Auriemma said.
To further complicate things, standing in the way of UConn and history is an Ohio State roster that features two-time All-American Jantel Lavender, a 6-foot-4 senior center who leads the nation in scoring with 26.6 points per game. Lavender has 2,283 career points, the second active leading scorer in the nation after UConn's Maya Moore (2,386).
That's why Auriemma would prefer his team focus on X's and O's rather than 88s and 89s. Until now, the coach said he hasn't discussed the winning streak or its significance with his players.
"The only thing you can do if you really harp on this is scare the daylights out of the freshmen," Auriemma said. "And I don't intend to do that.
"(If you do that), they're going to forget about how to guard these guys and they're going to run back and forth and say, 'Hey, Jantel, don't block any more of my shots. Don't you know I'm going for No. 88?'"
UConn's last loss was to Stanford in the national semifinals at the 2008 Final Four in Tampa. The Huskies began winning on opening day of the 2008-09 season, Nov. 16, against Georgia Tech.
Now, without the core of the team that won two straight national championships, the Huskies have turned to Moore, averaging 24.2 points per game.
The two-time national player of the year and a three-time All-American, Moore, by her estimate, said today's game against Ohio State (8-1) is about much more than the streak.
"I don't consider myself just here for the streak," she said. "It's the last round. There's no holding back. I want to make sure I don't leave with any regrets.
"If you have an opportunity, why not go get it."