Huskies set the record
They claim 89th straight victory
HARTFORD — The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team has fans in high places. The Huskies’ 89th straight victory last night received the seal of approval from President Obama and from Greg Wooden, who assured them his grandfather, John, was a supporter.
The compliments of John Wooden had been voiced previously but took on stronger meaning as UConn broke the collegiate record 88-game streak set by Wooden’s UCLA men’s team from 1971-74. Nor was the executive office’s attention new, since President Obama had hosted the Huskies after they had won an NCAA title.
“Mr. President, I really appreciate that,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said into a cellphone on a podium at the XL Center following a 93-62 win over Florida State. “It’s an incredible thing these kids have done. The lesson you gave them on the White House basketball court really paid off, I really appreciate that.
“We have not lost since you were inaugurated; how about we keep that streak going for a couple more years? It means a lot to me and my team and everyone here, you taking the time to call.’’
Auriemma has been responding to comparisons between UConn (11-0 this season) and the UCLA men.
“It just keeps getting more ridiculous by the day as you try to sort this out and what it means,’’ Auriemma said. “You know there’s an awful lot of people who do a lot of good things, play great, coach great, and do all the things they need to do — and don’t find themselves in this situation. So, when you do find yourself right here, doing this, you’re incredibly fortunate.’’
The game went like most of the previous 88 UConn victories. In the opening half, the Huskies went on two 9-0 runs, then a late 20-2 run in which they held Florida State without a field goal for a 6:39 span. Maya Moore scored a career-high 41 points and had 10 rebounds.
“I set out to get to the free throw line, be strong and tough with the ball, and the last thing I wanted to do was get every rebound,’’ Moore said. “The thing I’m most happy about is having my teammates that enjoy seeing me do well, and that I enjoy seeing them do well — I feel like they genuinely support me and love me and that’s what I take from this game.
“To have John Wooden’s grandson come in and show respect for our team, it means the world to us. You should have seen my face when he was complimenting us, it was a really big moment. It showed the connection between great programs.
“I’m ready for the next game, to be honest with you. I want to play. It’s kind of cool that this game happened [early in] our season. Because when you get to the end of the year you have this emptiness because your season is over. But now we have this high, but we can still play. So, I’m loving it.’’
Auriemma has been both attracting and deflecting controversy over comparisons between UConn and UCLA. Wooden, who died this year at 99, was definitely on Auriemma’s side.
“I know there’s been some articles, certain players have said they’re not really in support of the streak,’’ said Greg Wooden, 41. “And I know my grandfather would have loved to be here to see this.
“He thought they [women] were playing basketball closest to his style, especially Connecticut. The way they passed the ball, the way they had quite a few stars that you know could have scored quite a few more points on other teams, but were willing to sacrifice for the best of the team. Because of that they are playing unbelievable basketball. They don’t really care who gets the credit, they just want to win.
“I can remember him probably at least 10 years, 12 years, that he really thought the women’s game was the best fundamental basketball being played right now. He wasn’t into the slam dunk, he wasn’t into the showmanship, he just really enjoyed watching he the women’s game.’’
Said Auriemma, “[Wooden] came out publicly and said he liked the way our team played. He enjoyed the way we played, unselfish. And Greg said the same thing — we reminded him of the way his team played. It wasn’t built around one individual and was team-oriented, that’s the comparison I like.
“I’m not telling you to make any judgments about who’s better and who’s not. I’m talking about the actual journey and how it’s done and what these kids did.
“If you say anything less than that you’re telling them all these 89 wins are insignificant. For anybody who’s done significant things, that’s hard to do. That’s appreciated. And that’s all I ever wanted.
“It’s not comparing [them] to Bill Walton and Jamaal Wilkes, that’s not the point. I never asked for that. I asked you admire what these kids do and how hard it is to do it.’’
Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.