As Win No. 88 gets closer and closer for the Huskies, the more and more it becomes evident that Geno Auriemma is uncomfortable talking about this winning streak. UConn’s current 82-game winning streak is now the longest streak in the history of NCAA women’s basketball, one better than the 81-game run by Division III Washington University in St. Louis from Feb. 20, 1998 to Jan. 12, 2001. The legendary 88-game run by the UCLA men’s basketball team from Jan. 30, 1971 to Jan. 19, 1974 is next in line.
Auriemma was again asked about the streak following Friday’s 86-25 win over Howard in the World Vision Challenge and whether or not the Huskies might face any pressure over the next few weeks. It looked like he would have rather had a root canal than face more questions about consecutive wins.
“Our whole thing the last couple of years has been to put ourselves in position to win a national championship,’’ Auriemma said. “And that’s still the goal going in. So whether or not there’s any pressure with any of the wins … I don’t feel it. I don’t sense that they feel it. I’m not, nor are any of the other coaches, transferring it to them. We already have the streak. We’ve won more games in a row than any other women’s basketball team ever. So whatever happens happens. I would think there’s pressure involved for them at some level, but I just don’t know what that is. I really don’t. Maybe it’ll present itself, but I don’t know what that is right now.’’
Auriemma continues to point out that the streak has little to do with this year’s team because of the five freshmen on its 10-man roster. When the Huskies set the previous Division I record by winning 70 straight games from Nov. 9, 2001 to March 11, 2003, they returned five players who averaged at least 12.9 minutes in 2001-02. They then averaged at least 11.4 minutes in 2002-03, with Diana Taurasi (31.9), Maria Conlon (29.7), Jessica Moore (25.8) and Ashley Battle (22.4) all playing major roles. Injury-ridden Morgan Valley (11.4) did start 18 games.
“That’s why the streak is so non-involved here,’’ Auriemma said. “Maya Moore’s the only one that’s really had a hand in winning all these games. So what does the streak have to do with the other guys? You’re really going to get Bria Hartley and Samarie Walker and Stefanie Dolson to buy into their streak is on the line? This would only be a huge factor if all those guys were back and they don’t want to lose something I guess. So they want to do something I guess. It’s just so much different than back when we won 70. Jessica Moore. A.B. Maria Conlon. Morgan Valley. Diana Taurasi. We had a lot of guys that played a lot of minutes. I don’t know that Bria and Stefanie and Samarie, who are probably going to play a lot of minutes … They’ve won four in a row. I don’t know that they feel the pressure of having won every game for two years and it’s going to get to them. Maybe I’m completely wrong. I don’t know.’’
However, Moore did shed some light on her thoughts on the streak last night. And maybe this is how the players truly feel about the whole thing deep down inside. Maybe.
“I hope it continues to bring a lot of attention to the women’s game,’’ Moore said. “I think it’s OK. We realize it’s there, it’s happening and it’s great. But it’s going to be really important… the focus. Like I know, personally, I don’t read a lot. I don’t talk to people about it outside of the program, family or friends. I don’t really care who’s saying what. I just care about what’s happening every day in our program. I think it’s going to be important for these young guys to realize that and to start training themselves to have those same habits because there’s going to be a lot of attention and a lot of hype when you come to a program like UConn. So that’s going to be important, but I’d love it to get as high as it wants to get because I think it’s good to celebrate that.’’
The Huskies will play Lehigh tonight for the first time since current assistant coach Shea Ralph tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during a 103-35 win over the Mountain Hawks in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Gampel Pavilion March 15, 1997.
“I went into the little examination room and the doctor told me he thought that it was only a matter of time by the way my body looked that I would tear an ACL and he was 99 percent sure that’s what it was,’’ Ralph said. “I knew it was bad because your body’s not supposed to do what mine did when I fell. I had no idea what ACL was. It was kind of comforting for him to tell me, `This is what it is. This is how we’ll go forward.’’’
Ralph was just a freshman at the time. It was the first of five combined ACL tears in both knees throughout her career. To this day, she has not seen a replay of the Lehigh game.
“I’ve never watched that one and I don’t want to,’’ Ralph said. “I don’t need to see it. I know what it was and what it felt like. I don’t need to see it. It brings me back to places that I don’t want to be.’’