Maya Moore has been watching UConn intently, cheering for them to keep winning.
The former Huskies great, who was instrumental in the previous 90-game winning streak, hopes the current team can keep their record run going and shatter the mark her group set a few years ago.
“I don’t feel like it’s their streak and we have our streak. We all kind of share everything this school accomplishes,” Moore said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I’ve watched them play a couple of times. They are the same UConn, same unselfish passing. I’m proud of who they are and who they can be. That’s why I want them to succeed. If they were doing things differently, things might be different.”
Moore remembered the buildup when her Huskies were chasing the UCLA men’s record of 88 consecutive wins in 2010. There was so much more “outside noise” as they approached the vaunted mark with comparisons between men’s and women’s basketball and questions whether the Huskies were good for the sport.
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Moore said that coach Geno Auriemma did a tremendous job keeping the team focused on the task at hand — winning the next game — instead of focusing on the bigger picture or paying any attention to those outside the team’s inner circle.
“The coaches did such a good job of shielding us from it,” she said. “Being undefeated and the streak weren’t our main focus. We didn’t want to get swayed from the ultimate goal of playing great basketball. At the same time, you knew what was there. You wanted to win and I think for us, it really brought out the best in us. We wanted to play well, our freshmen had to grow up fast.”
The Huskies, led by Moore, didn’t see their streak last much longer after topping UCLA’s mark against Florida State. They lost to Stanford nine days later.
“It was such a big deal to us when we did it,” Moore said. “Maybe not in the moment, but looking back, it’s such a legacy-defining accomplishment. The first to win 90 games in a row. Big picture, no one can take away from that streak, that time together, the uniqueness of that group we had over those games.”
This current run that UConn is on should go a lot longer. The team equaled the record mark Tuesday night in a rout of No. 20 South Florida. That game was over nearly as quickly as it started. UConn scored the first nine points and never looked back in the 102-37 victory — the biggest victory over a ranked opponent in school history. While Auriemma and his players have been reticent to talk about the streak, they did celebrate the accomplishment after the game.
“Some things you just can’t really explain; you just have to enjoy it.” Auriemma said. “We don’t set out to do these kinds of things. We don’t set out to set records, break records or keep track of records. We set out to play as hard as we can, play with as much energy as we can.”
With about 2 minutes left in the contest, fans were given signs that read “90 and counting” on one side. On the other was: “The Two longest win streaks in college basketball.”
When the final buzzer sounded, the players put on T-shirts celebrating the accomplishment. A video played with well wishes from former players, including Breanna Stewart and Morgan Tuck, who were key for the first 75 wins of the current run.
“I thought our record was safe,” Moore said. “But then as I saw the last graduating class, as well as how the current players continued to develop, I thought they had a good chance to catch us.”
The Huskies should break their record Saturday at SMU. They haven’t lost an American Athletic Conference game since joining the new league in 2013-14. So the only real potential obstacle before the NCAA Tournament is a home game against No. 5 South Carolina on Feb. 13. That would be the school’s 100th consecutive victory.
Auriemma has said repeatedly that the streak will end sometime. He set up the schedule this year with test after test for his young squad. Seven of UConn’s first 12 games featured opponents ranked in the Top 25, including at No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 3 Baylor and at No. 4 Maryland. The Huskies passed all of those exams to keep the run going.
“Honestly, I don’t sit here and figure out how many games we’re going to win in a row,” he said. “We’ve done it before.”
Before the 90-game run that Moore helped accomplish from 2008-10, UConn ran off 70 straight from 2001-03. Who’s to say there won’t be another one when this streak ends?
“As long as Coach Auriemma is there,” Moore said, “I wouldn’t be surprised by anything they do.”
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