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Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010
UConn bests UCLA record
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Men's teams. Women's teams. No. 89 belongs to UConn. It beats them all.
The No. 1-ranked Huskies women's basketball team topped the 88-game winning streak set by John Wooden's UCLA men's team from 1971-74, beating No. 22 Florida State 93-62 on Tuesday night. Playing with the relentlessness that has become its trademark — and would have made Wooden proud — Connecticut blew past the Seminoles as it has so many other teams in the last 2 1/2 years.
Maya Moore had a double-double with a career-high 41 points and 10 rebounds and Bria Hartley added 21 points for the Huskies, who have not lost since April 6, 2008, in the NCAA tournament semifinals. Only twice during the record run has a team come within single digits of UConn — Stanford in the NCAA championship game last season and Baylor in early November.
When the final buzzer sounded, UConn players sprinted across the floor to shake hands with the student section as fans held up signs with "89" and the Huskies logo on them. A couple of other fans raised a banner that read "The Sorcerer of Storrs." After a brief huddle in front of their bench, UConn players re-emerged wearing "89 and Counting" T-shirts and bounced around at center court before posing for photos.
"I'm not John Wooden and this isn't UCLA," coach Geno Auriemma said. "This is Connecticut and that's good enough."
Connecticut long ago established itself as the marquee program in the women's game, the benchmark by which all others are measured.
The streak, though, takes it to another level, certainly raising the profile of women's basketball and maybe all of women's athletics.
Two days after beating No. 11 Ohio State to tie UCLA, UConn toppled the mark in front of a sellout crowd of 16,294 at the XL Center that included Wooden's grandson, Greg, attending his first women's game.
"My grandfather would have been thrilled. He would have been absolutely thrilled to see his streak broken by a women's basketball team," the 47-year-old Wooden said. "He thought, especially in the last 10 years, that the best basketball was played at the collegiate level — and it wasn't by the men."
John Wooden, the beloved Wizard of Westwood, died June 4 at age 99.
Even before UConn tied UCLA's record, the two programs were linked.
Auriemma acknowledges that his team runs the same offense Wooden perfected 37 years earlier. But it's not just the Xs and Os. The top block of Wooden's pyramid of success reads: "Competitive Greatness: Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required every day."
The day Notre Dame broke UCLA's streak, John Wooden was asked how long it would be before somebody surpassed it.
"I have no idea how long it will be before somebody else wins that many. I know it takes at least three years," he replied.
Try 36 years, 11 months, and 2 days.