Mixed emotions as UConn's streak ends
I'm sorting through many emotions after watching UConn's record-setting 90-game winning streak end at the hands of a talented and confident Stanford team. Surprise. Relief. Sadness. Joy. Let me explain.
Surprise. I'm not surprised that UConn lost to Stanford. The Huskies traveled 3,000 miles to face one of the top teams in the country, a team UConn beat in the NCAA championship game in April. A team that also happens to be the last one to beat the Huskies on April 6, 2008, in the NCAA semifinals. A team with a 52-game home winning streak. Losing to Stanford is not in and of itself surprising. I can handle that part of the equation. We all knew the UConn streak was going to come to an end at some point -- all streaks end, right? This UConn team, despite Maya Moore, is not as strong as last season's. The Huskies may very well win a third consecutive title in the spring, but on paper, Thursday night's championship game rematch at Maples Pavilion was a pretty fair fight. What did surprise me was how UConn lost.
Stanford played a fantastic game, hit big shots and came up with the key plays and big stops when needed. But the poise we had seen from UConn this season just wasn't there. Moore, the All-American superstar do-everything player, disappeared at times. Yes, Stanford had a good game plan designed to shut her down and force others to make big shots, but Moore compounded the problem. She took poor shots, made uncharacteristically bad decisions and even missed free throws. On one play, she missed a 3-pointer and then gave up on the defensive end, allowing the Stanford player to blow right past her. She was a virtual nonfactor when her team needed her most. I know she'll rebound (and Geno Auriemma will do his damnedest to make sure her poor performance doesn't happen again), but this surprised me.
Relief. I'm relieved that we can all move on and stop arguing over whether or not The Streak should or shouldn't be accorded the same respect as the UCLA streak. I'm certainly glad it has brought attention to women's basketball, and to the great accomplishment of this UConn team, but it also has brought out a lot of nastiness and negativity that I, for one, am tired of fighting. I'm relieved that I don't have to continue to defend myself or others to everybody about why these games matter or why this team should be respected for its accomplishment.
Sadness. One of my friends on Twitter posted this as the game ended: "I have seen more people interested in this women's game because it would end women's college basketball talk [more] than any other reason." This made me sad (and even a little bit angry). If you don't care, that's fine. If you don't want to watch, that's fine too. But don't make the people who do care and do want to watch feel ashamed or less worthy because of it. I'm sad that one of the main reasons people were talking about the game was because they hoped it would be the last time they'd have to talk about it. I've said it many times before: I am not a devoted women's basketball fan, but I fully respect the accomplishment of this UConn women's basketball team and I have enjoyed watching the Huskies play, even before The Streak approached the UCLA record.
Joy. Yes, despite my mixed emotions, I will celebrate the incredible accomplishment of these women. Ninety games in a row is a mind-boggling number of games to win at any level. I don't think we'll see another streak like it in men's or women's basketball again. There will be other streaks in other sports, but this one was special. The UConn women totally dominated their opponents. They won two straight national championships. The Streak is something to be celebrated. Now that it's over, I can say this UConn winning streak was one of the great athletic achievements I've witnessed as a sports fan. Stanford should be congratulated for its great performance and win on Tuesday night, but The Streak remains worthy of celebration.