Wednesday, December 22, 2010

89 Wins Later, UConn Still Streaking

UConn women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma stands alone atop the world of consecutive win records as his Lady Huskies win their 89th last night with 93-62 rout of Florida State. (Photo courtesy of Albany Times-Union)

Through my 24 years, I've seen many things in the sports world. Not many have matched the significance of what I'm about to chronicle; and in retrospect, I take greater pride today having been a small part of it than I ever have in the 22 months since it happened.

Eight days after one impressive streak ended when Brett Favre was ruled inactive against the Giants in a decision that ended the Vikings quarterback's run of 297 consecutive starts, another run was extended and became the most prolific of its kind in any sport in Hartford, Connecticut last night; when the University of Connecticut women's basketball team; a program that has been on top of its world since 1995, (back in the days of Rebecca Lobo and Jennifer Rizzotti) defeated Florida State 93-62 for the Lady Huskies' 89th consecutive win, breaking the long-standing record held by John Wooden's UCLA men's basketball team since 1974 as the longest winning streak in college basketball. Although Wooden was unfortunately not there to see it since he passed away in June, his grandson was; and Greg Wooden stated that his grandfather would have been honored to see a women's team break the record, because the legendary coach felt that the best basketball was played on that level.

UConn has had many names and faces over the years; a Who's Who of the WNBA that includes names like Lobo, Rizzotti, Nykesha Sales, Swin Cash, Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Tina Charles and Maya Moore. Moore may still be a senior and the likely top pick in the WNBA draft after this season; but she is already the school's all-time leading scorer and a simple pleasure to watch, and that was before she went off for 41 against the Seminoles last night. Upon hearing of the victory last night and watching the highlights on SportsCenter this morning, I immediately looked back to the night of February 11, 2009; which now stands as one of the two greatest moments in my young broadcasting career, and one that is by far the most historic.

On that night, top-ranked (not surprisingly, of course) UConn came to Carnesecca Arena to face my alma mater of St. John's in a Big East game that I had the honor of doing play-by-play for on WSJU Radio. Despite having graduated two months prior to the contest, I was still the student station's sports director, and had looked forward to doing this game since the 2008-09 schedule was released simply because of the mystique and excellence UConn had come to be known for was making its way to the corner of Union and Utopia. Needless to say, the broadcast is among my personal favorites for both significance and quality; but that's not the point here. What matters now is that I was on hand for a piece of history, and this feeling was shared by my colleague Reginald Bazile, who handled color commentary alongside me that night. UConn defeated St. John's 77-64 on a night where Moore had a double-double, posting 20 points and 11 rebounds to go with 21 each from Tina Charles and Renee Montgomery. Aside from the glitz and glamour that was the Lady Huskies, the most impressive part of that night occurred just by looking into the stands at Carnesecca, which were more than halfway filled with a sea of blue and white, thus making it a de facto home game for UConn. That was the moment in which I truly appreciated this program and how far it has come. Forget about the fact that this team hasn't tasted defeat since April of 2008, the fact that their fans traveled well and took over an arena was enough for me to see just how much of an impact this team has had, and it is clearly a local, if not national treasure to the college basketball and sports worlds.

Now as the 89th consecutive victory has been celebrated, it is my hope as a fan and media member that the Lady Huskies will continue their run, maybe even getting to 100; because it is clearly the most exciting occurrence I've ever been on hand to experience; and if you're in any way affected by the simple thrills that organized sports evoke from the human emotional landscape, you will feel the same way after watching a UConn women's game.

This streak and these players truly are something special.

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