UConn makes history
True to their nature, there were some smiles but not a heck of a lot of emotion by the Huskies after the 88-48 win over SMU gave the Huskies a record 91st straight win.
"This team is pretty good at keeping everything on an even keel," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "Even afterwards there is a feeling of accomplishment, they feel like they have done something significant but there isn't this over the top screaming and yelling as if we won the national championship. Even know I told them that what they did today might be even more significant than winning a national championship."
The players did emerge from the locker room wearing blue t-shirts commemorating the 91 wins in a row and when they met with the media, they did say that it meant a lot to them even though we know the game in Dallas that they would like to be celebrating afterward is the national championship game on April 2.
"It feels great that we can continue what other people have started," sophomore forward Napheesa Collier said, "It feels amazing but now I think we are just going to focus on our games and not necessarily all the hype from the streaks. We are definitely excited because it is kind of a big deal but it is not what we are focusing on, we are focusing on trying to get better."
Much like they did against South Florida a few days ago when the Huskies tied the NCAA record of 90 wins in a row with a 102-37 victory, the Huskies jumped out to the quick lead. On this day, however, UConn's opponent did not go away quietly. SMU continued to play hard and began to score while the Huskies continued to miss shots. The Huskies were never in danger of losing but certainly SMU earned the respect of the UConn players.
I thought it was interesting that the last road game I covered was the Jan. 1 contest at UCF and the streak did not come up once in the post-game press conference. That was certainly not the case today.
Some of the best stuff from Auriemma came when he was asked whether this team was destined to set this record.
"I believe you have to earn it and you have to deserve it," Auriemma said. "Don't get me wrong, there are some great things that happen to people and they don't necessarily deserve and there are bad things that happen to people and they don't deserve it but if you expect to get something amazing back, you really do have to put yourself in position where you feel like you deserve it because you worked hard and you earned that, it wasn't given to you. I think these kids have done that and what has helped them along the way is that group of people who came before them, that Connecticut mentality, that culture we are fortunate enough to have at Connecticut, when there is a
play to be made, there is no 'can I make this play? Am I good enough to make this play? I have no choice but to make this play because I am at Connecticut.' You still have to be good, you still have to have talent, have all the other stuff but there is this belief that 'well, I am at Connecticut so of course I am going to get that rebound.' We need a blocked shot against Florida State, of course I am going to get my hand on it (as Collier did). Why? Because I am at Connecticut, that is what Stewie did, that is what Stefanie (Dolson) did and that is what Tina (Charles) did, that is what Rebecca (Lobo) did.
"Sometimes this kind of stuff, these moments just like if you are not used to winning, it those moments things go bad. Things do have a way of becoming what you expect them to become. We have good players. I love when people say you do get all the best players, you should win all the time. Good, leave it at then."
While some may wonder if the streak will ever end, Auriemma knows that it is just a matter of time.
"Everything ends at some point," Auriemma said. "I remember using the analogy of a wave, I don't care where it starts, in Portugal. that wave is going to crash on some shore at some point. We just want to be riding it for as long as it is out there. We know there is going to be a loss somewhere down the road, maybe next year, maybe in the tournament, maybe next year, I don't know but it is coming and until then just enjoy this part of it."
Part of the process of enjoying things is heading to American Airlines Arena (the site of the Final Four) for tomorrow's NBA game before the team heads to Tulsa for the next game.
"That is the goal, we want to be back and playing in this building at the end of the season," Auriemma said.
It isn't lost on Auriemma that when UConn set the NCAA record with 90 straight wins that the Huskies did not win the national championship at the end of the season.
He is more focused on the process than the number of consecutive wins.
"I think that is the approach that we have tried to take for every one of our games," Auriemma said. "If you told me what was No. 70, I would have no idea, what is No. 78, I have no idea. It wasn't like we were keeping track along the way. We are so focused on what is all the way out there, that is the one thing that everybody gears up for is that one night in March when you are hopefully playing for a national championship, that has become the focus every day. All of a sudden you wake up one day like today and you realize along the way that 'oh my God, I can't believe we did this.' It is a lot."