Sunday, January 19, 2003
Women: UConn sets win streak record
By Donna Tommelleo
The Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. - Connecticut made women's basketball history Saturday - then celebrated as if it won a national championship.
The third-ranked Huskies got 22 points from All-American junior Diana Taurasi and overcame a poor first-half shooting performance in a 72-49 win over Georgetown for their 55th straight win, surpassing the mark of 54 wins set by Louisiana Tech from 1980-82.
With 30 seconds remaining, the crowd of 16,294 at the Hartford Civic Center began a standing ovation that lasted well after the final buzzer. The team gathered midcourt and received T-shirts and caps marking the milestone victory. Taurasi and teammate Jessica Moore tossed their gifts into the crowd.
"We're the first team ever to do it," Taurasi said. "I think it feels great and now we can put it behind us. I think we set a new standard of play."
For a program that has dominated the sport for the last five years, it seemed like breaking the Lady Techsters' record would be only a matter of time.
UConn went 39-0 and won its third national title in seven years last season. The Huskies' last loss was on March 30, 2001, a 90-75 setback to eventual national champion Notre Dame in the NCAA semifinals.
"Winning 55 in a row, that's pretty special in any sport," Taurasi said. "It ranks up there. A little bit behind the national championship, but it's up there."
Now that UConn has the record, it could be in jeopardy quickly. The Huskies play at No. 21 Notre Dame on Monday and travel to top-ranked Duke on Feb. 1.
UCLA holds the Division I men's record with an 88-game winning streak from 1971-74.
In the past three seasons, the Huskies have a 123-4 record under coach Geno Auriemma, now in his 18th year. Auriemma, who has had a migraine headache since Friday, left immediately after the game and did not attend the postgame news conference.
Assistant coach Jamelle Elliot, a member of UConn's 35-0 national championship team in 1995, said the pressure to keep winning is much greater now.
"For these kids to come here now, because of the spotlight that this program has, you're expected to win every day," Elliot said. "That's a whole lot of pressure for a 17- or 18-year-old. My hat's off to them."
UConn (16-0, 4-0 Big East) led from the outset Saturday, and the Hoyas (11-3, 2-2) couldn't get closer than nine points in the second half.
The Huskies broke the game open with a 19-2 second-half run. Taurasi's 3-pointer with 14:39 left initiated a spurt that ended four minutes later with Ann Strother's two free throws, giving UConn its largest lead of the game at 51-25.
UConn dominated inside behind Moore's solid post play and outrebounded the Hoyas 48-25. The Huskies finished with 29 defensive rebounds. Moore led the Huskies with 12 rebounds and helped shut down Rebekkah Brunson, the Hoyas' explosive forward. Brunson, who was averaging 19 points and nearly 12 boards a game, finished with 11 and eight rebounds.
"She might be one of the quickest people I've played against this year," Moore said. "I really wanted to just get a body on her and just box her out."
UConn shot just 18 percent in the first half, but built a 29-13 lead by the break. It was the second straight game the Huskies struggled from the floor after shooting 30 percent in Wednesday's win at Seton Hall. Taurasi acknowledged the pressure may have gotten to them.
"We were probably a little uptight the last two games knowing there was so much at stake," Taurasi said.
The Huskies were helped by shooting 14-for-18 from the free-throw line. The Hoyas shot just 1-for-3 from the line in the first half.
The Huskies shot 6-for-33 from the floor in the first half and went 10 minutes between field goals during one stretch. Strother's 3-pointer at the buzzer ended the drought.
Georgetown also struggled in the first half, shooting 6-for-26 (23 percent).
UConn outrebounded Georgetown 33-17 in the first period.
The Huskies rebounded from their dismal first-half effort by shooting 58 percent in the second half.
Moore had 10 rebounds in the first half and finished with seven points. Teammate Ashley Battle added 12 points.
Carmen Bruce led Georgetown with 15 points.
Georgetown coach Pat Knapp said the streak was a testament to UConn's consistency but irrelevant to what Auriemma is striving for this year.
"One game is not the issue," Knapp said. "Is UConn going to be better when they go down to Duke? Are they going to be better come the Big East tournament?
"I'm sure Geno would gladly take a loss or two to get to a national title. Strength, consistency over a long period of time, that's the tribute," Knapp said.
The Huskies were without longtime associate head coach Chris Dailey, whose father, Robert, died Wednesday. A moment of silence was held before the game for Dailey's father and for three Yale athletes who died early Friday in a car accident.
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