88 down, one to go for UConn
New York - Geno Auriemma finally had to address history with his team this week, just to make certain the players knew what to expect in front of a crowd of 15,232 Sunday at Madison Square Garden, all eyes in the college sports world ready to scrutinize.
"I said this is what's happening. This is what's going to happen. You can't hide from it," said Auriemma, coach of the UConn women's basketball team. "… You're not going to do it by falling over your two feet. You're going to have to do it the right way."
And so top-ranked UConn won its 88th game in a row, tying the record for most consecutive Division I basketball victories that was set by the UCLA men from 1971-74.
The Huskies (10-0) beat No. 11 Ohio State 81-50 in the second game of a doubleheader at the Maggie Dixon Classic, trailing 6-0 on a pair of early 3-pointers then reeling off the next 13 points to take the lead for good.
The Huskies also did it the right way, as their coach suggested.
"We attacked on every possession. There was no tentativeness," said Auriemma, who had previously been hesitant to talk about the streak. "The way it was done is what I've most impressed with."
Different from an ordinary regular-season game, the UConn players then celebrated the record-tying win. Many of the fans there to witness history stood and clapped rhythmically, chanting, "Eighty-eight. Eighty-eight." The Huskies posed for a photograph at center court, while the strains of "New York, New York" played over the loudspeaker. Following his postgame interview with ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo, a former UConn All-American, Auriemma stepped into the stands to exchange hugs with his family members, stopping to pinch the cheek of his mother, Marsiella.
UConn will play No. 15 Florida State in attempt to break the record at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the XL Center in Hartford, where Greg Wooden, the grandson of late legendary UCLA men's coach John Wooden, is expected to be in attendance.
"We knew this was a special game. We used it to our advantage," said UConn senior All-American Maya Moore, who was then asked what she would remember the most about the day. "Just the people, doing it with the special group we have. ... It was perfect the way everybody was able to get involved. That's who you want to win with, the people you go to work with every day."
Moore said it was a win worth celebrating with a little more than the usual high-fives.
"This is just a special place. Obviously people have been hyping this game up more than other games," she said. "The way the crowd responded, you couldn't help but enjoy it."
Tiffany Hayes led UConn with 26 points, adding six rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocked shots, often sprinting up the floor to receive a length-of-the-court outlet pass on a Moore rebound for a breakaway layup. Moore had 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Bria Hartley had 13 points and five assists and fellow freshman Stefanie Dolson had 15 rebounds and three blocked shots for UConn. Kelly Faris added 10 rebounds.
The Huskies held Ohio State's Jantel Lavender, leading the nation with 26.6 points per game, to 14 points, She was 2-for-10 with four points in the first half as UConn led 40-26. Point guard Samantha Prahalis finished 2-for-17 shooting for seven points for the Buckeyes and had six turnovers.
Hayes scored 12 of UConn's first 16 points and had 17 in the first half.
"Coach wanted us to rebound and run," Moore said. "I think that's the most transition we had all year and it was so fun."
"Getting to share it with this group that's been through a lot already this year, it just was that much more special," Hayes said.
UConn is coming off back-to-back unbeaten national championship seasons, accomplishing that feat for the first time in history, as well. This season, the Huskies have five freshmen out of 10 available players, yet have already beaten No. 2 Baylor and now Ohio State for a piece of history.
Said Auriemma, the hall of fame coach, in his 26th season at UConn: "We lose every day (in practice). We just don't like to lose when people are watching."
Going for win No. 89
What: Florida State at UConn
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: XL Center, Hartford
Noteworthy: ESPN2 will broadcast an hour-long pregame show, hosted by Trey Wingo, Kara Lawson and Carolyn Peck, starting at 6 p.m. as well as postgame segments all from the XL Center; ESPNU will broadcast five consecutive hours of UConn programming leading up to the pregame special.