Wed December 22, 2010

UConn Surpasses John Wooden's UCLA Winning Record

The University of Connecticut's women's basketball team has won 89 straight games -- surpassing the UCLA men's team record for consecutive wins.

In the process, the Huskies defeated Florida State 93-62 Tuesday night in a sold-out arena in Hartford.

Florida State coach Sue Semrau was amazed at UConn's accomplishment.

"It's still impossible to me that it's happened," she said.

Maybe Semrau was influenced by the fact that Connecticut's Maya Moore had 26 points at halftime, whereas the entire FSU team had 27. Moore would go on to score 41 points, the highest total by any player during the streak.

By the second half it was clear that the Huskies would not be relenting. Fans like Connecticut sophomore Rachel Weiss began to talk, not just about this win or this season but about the team's place in history. "All UConn, and for that matter all basketball fans, should understand the immensity of this streak, and the accomplishment they've come up with," Weiss said.

A couple of days ago UConn's coach, Geno Auriemma, opined that the only reason people cared so much about 89 was that it was a women's team beating a men's record.

Randy Edsel, who coaches UConn football, champions of the Big East, was at the game ready to speak up for Auriemma and his team. "It doesn't matter if it's men's basketball or women's basketball -- give them their due. It's hard to win a couple games in a row, let alone 89 in a row," Edsel said.

During Auriemma's post-game news conference, he took a call from the father of two female basketball players: President Obama.

Auriemma told reporters anyone belittling 89 straight wins must never have accomplished anything extraordinary. "Those that have done significant things, they know when you do something really significant, that's hard to do, they really appreciate it," Auriemma said. "I just ask for everybody to admire what these kids do and how they do it and how hard it is to do it."

Overall, the tone of Auriemma and the team was reflective. They neither exulted nor exhaled. They weren't saying, 'We did it,' so much as they avowed, 'We're doing it.' "

There was a subtle but telling choice made after the game as the team posed at center court.

A fan tossed the players a UCLA jersey. The name on the back was Wooden (for legendary UCLA coach John Wooden) and the number 88 was crossed out. But the jersey wasn't held up to the cameras. Instead, it was quickly tucked away by an assistant coach so no one could see it.

UConn didn't beat UCLA. The women didn't win a title.

And as members of the team posed for the horde of cameras, they weren't holding onto a trophy.

They were holding on to each other. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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