It's record time for UConn
A member of the UCLA men's team's first two national championships and a basketball Hall of Famer, Gail Goodrich attended Sunday's UConn-Ohio State women's game as a guest of UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
Auriemma then spoke with Goodrich after top-ranked UConn dismantled No. 11 Ohio State, an energetic 81-50 victory at Madison Square Garden for the Huskies' 88th straight win, tying UCLA's all-time Division I basketball mark.
"He had this look in his eye and he said, 'It was my pleasure,'" Auriemma said. "'You guys are a real team.'"
If there's one thing Auriemma - whose team goes for record-breaking win No. 89 tonight at a sold-out XL Center in Hartford - likes among all the comparisons between his team and UCLA, it's the standard of excellence held dear by both. UCLA won 10 championships under the legend, John Wooden. UConn has won seven.
"One thing that is non-negotiable that we have in common with them is that we settle for nothing less than the absolute best we can give every single night and every single day," Auriemma said. "There are very few people who do that. They did it. And we're doing it. ... Everything else to me is meaningless."
UConn's opponent tonight in Hartford will be No. 22 Florida State (9-2). The game will be televised on ESPN2 (7 p.m.), after the game was moved from ESPNU because of its historical significance. Florida State is coming off a 91-85 loss Saturday at Yale.
The last time the UConn women sold out the XL Center, which holds 16,294 fans, was Dec. 23, 2009, an 80-68 victory over then-No. 2 Stanford. It's the 39th sellout at the XL Center overall since 2000.
There will also be an hourlong pregame broadcast on ESPN with the network's usual Final Four studio team of Kara Lawson, Trey Wingo and Carolyn Peck, beginning at 6 p.m.
A Hall of Fame coach, Auriemma was a fan of UCLA's in the 1970s, when the Bruins were the dominant force of college basketball under Wooden.
"I knew every starter" he said. "... There was just something about the way they played."
"Both teams, I think, share that level of competitiveness and an expectation level that is above everyone else's," UConn All-American Maya Moore said. "... We would like people to remember how much we respect and love the game. I think people see that when we play."
Tiffany Hayes led UConn Sunday with 26 points and Moore had 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals. Freshman center Stefanie Dolson pulled down 15 rebounds, playing against Ohio State All-America center Jantel Lavender, an expected WNBA lottery pick.
In general, UConn raced from end to end on the Garden floor, with Hayes jumping ahead on fast breaks and receiving several baseball passes from Moore. Moore executed a left-handed layup that belonged on a highlight video if not for the fact she made it look routine and Bria Hartley tracked down an offensive rebound off her own miss and converted it for a 68-40 lead as the Huskies ran away with it. Hartley was named Monday as the Big East Conference Freshman of the Week.
"To me, the most significant difference today was the accountability," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. "They hold each other accountable.
"Maya Moore made two plays, a play where she blocked a shot and her team was up 30 points - she could have easily not involved herself in that play - and, on an inbounds play, we made a cut and got an uncontested look at the basket. She called the group together and jumped on them.
Florida State is led by 6-4 junior forward Cierra Bravard, averaging 13.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
UConn beat Florida State 90-50 in last year's Dayton Regional final to earn a trip to the Final Four. The Huskies are 6-0 against the Seminoles.
GOING FOR WIN NO. 89
What: Florida State at UConn
When: Today, 7 p.m.
Where: XL Center, Hartford
Note: ESPN2 will broadcast an hourlong 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.