John Wooden was 99 when he died on June 4.
There was a festive atmosphere throughout the city, where building lights gleamed blue and white, and it was as electric as any Final Four inside the arena. Charles and UConn men’s star Kemba Walker sat behind the Huskies’ bench, and football coach Randy Edsall was there, too. Former NFL star Warrick Dunn, meanwhile, was cheering for his alma mater, Florida State.
With the game tied at 6, Moore and UConn (11-0) took command. The senior All-American had seven points during a 15-2 run to give Connecticut its first double-digit lead, and Moore’s fadeaway jumper from the baseline extended the advantage to 34-15. Florida State (9-3) made a quick run to cut the lead to 11, but the Huskies weren’t about to let anyone spoil this night.
UConn ripped off the next 16 points, capped by consecutive 3-pointers from Hartley and a pull-up by Moore. Auriemma gave Hartley a kiss at the next timeout, and the tough-to-please coach was still grinning at halftime.
“She doesn’t feel any of this,” Auriemma said as he left the court. “She’s kind of immune to all of this as a freshman. I love kids like that.”
With a minute left to play and victory assured, Moore stood up and whirled a towel around her head. The All-American tossed it in the air briefly before sitting down for the final seconds, beaming as she and her teammates on the bench yelled encouragement at the players on the floor.
“All you guys from Florida State, it wasn’t easy to be part of all of this,” Auriemma said. “I hope you don’t feel disrespected by all this. You played a heck of a game.”
During his postgame news conference, Auriemma took a congratulatory phone call from President Barack Obama.
“Mr. President I really appreciate that. It’s an incredible thing that these kids have done and we owe you a little bit of gratitude. That lesson you gave on the White House basketball court really paid off. I appreciate you doing that for them,” Auriemma said. “We have not lost since you have been inaugurated and how ‘bout we keep that streak going for a couple of more years, huh?”
UConn’s rise to prominence began in 1995, when Lobo led the Huskies to their first national championship and unbeaten season. Since then, the best players in the country have made their way to the rural campus in Storrs, 30 miles outside of Hartford.
“This streak is result of the program Geno has been building at UConn for a long time. Great players want to play for him,” Taurasi said in an e-mail to The Associated Press. “What UConn has done is important and significant on its own merit. All this talk about comparison to Wooden’s UCLA men is just silly. It’s not about women vs. men, it’s about basketball. Both teams beat their respective competition night in and night out.”
The excellence and confidence that defines great teams defines this one because Auriemma won’t have it any other way. Perfection is expected, not simply a goal, and Auriemma goes to extraordinary lengths to get it.
He goads his players with criticisms of their games — sarcastic remarks that may strike outsiders as harsh but somehow trigger just the right response with gusto. He makes them play games of seven-on-five in practice. He rounds up bigger, stronger male students around campus to serve as practice players. He runs endless drills to hone skills the players thought they had mastered in junior high.
It hardly seems to matter who is on the floor because UConn players don’t wear names on the back of their uniforms. The only one that counts is the one on the front.
When UConn — led by Taurasi — won 70 straight games from 2001-03, a record in the women’s game, it seemed unfathomable that it would be toppled, like UCLA’s 88. But what fans have learned over the years is that nothing this team does should be surprising.View Entire Story
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