HARTFORD, Conn. — All the excitement that came with eclipsing the UCLA men’s mark of 88-straight wins has quieted down, and top-ranked Connecticut presses on. The next significant milestone is an even 100, and after that, another national title.
Coach Geno Auriemma has always preached that it is championships his team chases, not streaks. No. 89 certainly had a championship feel to it, though, from the way the team danced at midcourt in celebration to the congratulatory phone call from President Barack Obama.
How could it not? The Huskies passed one of the most revered marks in sports Tuesday night.
Still, UConn is only 11 games into their young season and has a lot of basketball left to be played before trying for their third straight national championship and eighth overall.
“It’s kind of cool that this game happened not even in the middle of our season,” said Maya Moore, who had a career-high 41 points in the 93-62 win over Florida State. “Now we have this high, but we can still play. So I love it. I’m ready to play the next game, actually.”
After a few days off for the holidays, UConn will travel to California to face Pacific before a showdown with No. 8 Stanford on Dec. 30. The Cardinal were one of two teams to come within single digits of beating the Huskies during their record-setting run. Stanford also was the last team to hand them a loss, beating them in the 2008 national semifinals.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier after the New Year, when the Big East season kicks into full gear. The conference has seven teams in the Top 25.
January also brings a trip to No. 10 North Carolina. If UConn can make it to the end of that month unbeaten, win No. 100 would come at home against third-ranked Duke on Jan. 31.
Then again, ranked opponents haven’t provided much of a challenge the past couple of years.
UConn has won by an average of nearly 25 points against Top 25 teams, and rarely have found themselves in trouble in those 31 games. There’s no reason to think anything will change for the Huskies, not as long as Moore is in uniform.
“We value the intangibles,” she said. “To come to practice, to work as hard as we do, to focus as much as we do, to be aware, to pay attention, to put that much emotional energy and effort into everything we do on the court, it’s remarkable.”
If winning streaks were the motivation, Auriemma could use the 131 straight games that Wayland Baptist won from 1953-58 to keep spurring his team on. Then again, that was before the NCAA took over women’s basketball and those games were played 6-on-6.
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.
Auriemma and his staff will have Tuesday’s rout of the Seminoles broken down on video for his team to watch when they return from the holidays. He’ll point out every little thing they did wrong, just as he’s done after the previous 88 victories.
With that kind of drive, who knows when this streak will end?
Auriemma joked with the President after beating Florida State that the Huskies haven’t lost since Obama was inaugurated. They just might not until he leaves office.