STORRS, Conn. – Maya Moore was embarrassed to admit it: She didn’t know much about the vaunted UCLA men’s basketball teams.
It would be easy to forgive her since the Bruins’ historic run occurred way before Moore was born. Moore, however, is an academic All-American and refused to use that as an excuse.
“I don’t know a whole lot about them. I should,” she said. “I like history and basketball history. I just don’t make enough time to go back and look at those things.”
While Moore and her teammates spent the last week studying for final exams, it seems everyone else was talking about those Bruins teams led by Bill Walton and coach John Wooden.
A sellout crowd could be on hand at Madison Square Garden today when UConn goes for its 88th straight victory. That would match the mark set by the UCLA men from the early 1970s.
The Huskies will take on No. 11 Ohio State in the Maggie Dixon Classic. Rutgers faces No. 8 Texas A&M in the first game of the doubleheader.
With a victory over the Buckeyes, UConn will try for an 89th consecutive victory Tuesday night against No. 15 Florida State. If UConn does win its next two games, coach Geno Auriemma doesn’t know if he even wants to celebrate the milestone.
“I’m a little torn,” he said. “Someone just asked me, ‘Hey, do you want to do this big thing’ if we passed 88. I was like, why? We broke the record when we passed 70. UConn women has won the most games in the history of women’s basketball in a row. Shouldn’t that be the way it works?”
Moore agrees, wanting each accomplishment to be treated on its own.
“I like to appreciate what they did for what they did and what we’re doing in our special way,” Moore said. “I don’t think you have to say one’s better than the other. I think we’re a society that likes to always compete and have to say somebody’s a winner and a loser.”
The Buckeyes are trying not to be another footnote in the record books. Preseason All-American Jantel Lavender is hoping to be remembered in the same breath as Dwight Clay, who led Notre Dame to the victory that ended UCLA’s run in 1974.
“I do want to stand in the way of the 88-game winning streak,” said Lavender, who leads the nation in scoring. “(Assistant coach Ed Baldwin) had a really good point. You don’t want to be a trivia question, be on the bad end of a trivia question. We have to come out extremely hard. I’m excited. We want to win. We have what it takes to be a great team. We just have to show it. This is our time.”
Eighty-seven times over the last two-plus seasons teams have tried to beat UConn. The Huskies have answered every challenge. Whether it was 6-foot-8 phenom Brittney Griner and Baylor or the Stanford Cardinal, UConn has found ways to win, usually by dominating.
The Huskies have won by an average of more than 32 points a game and are 29-0 against teams ranked in the Top 25. Rarely has UConn found itself in trouble. The Huskies have trailed for just 132 minutes, including only 13 in the second half.
The numbers are daunting, but Moore said it’s not the stats but the intangibles that link Auriemma to Wooden.
“Coach Auriemma has a lot of respect for coach Wooden and how he ran his program, and I know a lot of the things coach Wooden did coach Auriemma adopts as well. How we present ourselves and making sure we’re on time and respectable. Team-oriented. Good people. Life lessons that coach shows us through basketball is awesome.”
One more victory will forever join Auriemma and his team with Wooden and UCLA.