When a win streak spans two seasons and 16 months of games, many memories are made along the way. ESPN.com asked its contributors and ESPN's women's basketball experts to each share his or her favorite anecdote from Connecticut's women's NCAA Division I-record 71 consecutive victories.
Lobo: Auriemma at a loss for words
I love working as a sideline reporter for UConn games. Coach Geno Auriemma is always free with information about his team before games and entertaining in his huddles during games. He keeps me on my toes (uncomfortably long pauses before answering questions) and off my heels (requesting I remove my height-increasing shoes) when I interview him after games.
Needless to say, I have witnessed a lot of interesting moments during UConn's win streak over the past two years. But the most memorable one happened during last year's Final Four in St. Louis.
On the morning of the national championship game, members of the ESPN broadcast team were the only people allowed courtside to watch UConn's shooting practice. When it ended, Coach Auriemma came over to talk to us about the upcoming game (which all coaches do before any TV telecast). Doris Burke asked him about some Renee Montgomery quotes that were in Jeff Jacobs' column in the Hartford Courant that morning. Coach hadn't seen the column, so Doris read him what Renee had said. Among other things, Renee talked about how her relationship with Coach had evolved over four years and how she had grown to love Coach Auriemma.
Coach's eyes welled with tears. He looked away, removed his glasses and wiped his eyes dry. It was one of the rare times where he was at a loss for words. It was the only time I've ever seen him cry.
Coach and Renee had forged a special relationship over her four-year career. He wanted to win the championship so badly for her in her last try. It was touching to see his raw emotion on the morning of the championship game when they were so close to reaching their goal.
Coach is a man who cares deeply about his players. And his players remain deeply loyal to him. So much so that 15 years after they graduate, some are still willing to take off their shoes at his request. -- ESPN's Rebecca Lobo
Voepel: Nothing if not resilient
If ever there was a night for understandable -- even expected -- vulnerability from UConn's women, it was Jan. 19, 2009, at North Carolina. Both the Huskies and Tar Heels came into that game undefeated, ranked Nos. 1-2. But there was a lot emotionally working against UConn -- or so it seemed.
Two days earlier, the Huskies had lost standout freshman Caroline Doty to an ACL injury suffered against Syracuse. Plus, coach Geno Auriemma had a "run-in" with Orange player Nicole Michael in the handshake line afterward. He told her to be more "respectful" to adults. Moments later as he was walking away from the line, she slid her foot out to, um, tell him what he could do with his advice.
The video was shown on ESPN, and so the Huskies headed to Chapel Hill with Doty out for the season and a little mini-controversy about "the trip" brewing. The Tar Heels had a crowd of 12,722 on hand at the Smith Center. Surely, the combination of all those things should have affected even the mighty Huskies, right?
Nope. They won 88-58. Renee Montgomery led the way with 21 points, Tina Charles and Maya Moore both had 12 rebounds and Lorin Dixon had six assists. Leaving everyone to wonder, "If UConn is 30 points better than the supposed No. 2 team, who can beat the Huskies this season?"
We found out: Nobody. -- ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel
Hays: They have Maya and Tina and you don't
There are plenty of tangible reasons Connecticut is in the midst of its winning streak. First and foremost, of course, is the talent available. To paraphrase Geno Auriemma's oft-borrowed comment from another winning streak, in Maya Moore and Tina Charles, the Huskies have the two best players and you don't. They also have better role players in Tiffany Hayes, Kalana Greene, Caroline Doty, Lorin Dixon and Kelly Faris. All that talent manifests itself statistically over the course of a season, or now the course of multiple seasons, in measures like margin of victory, defensive efficiency, rebounding margin, assist-to-turnover ratio and assorted other cold, clinical facts.
But in attempting to pick one moment that sums up the streak, I'm left with something less tangible. Something that was felt as much as it was seen on the scoreboard -- typically impressive though the latter was. What sticks out above all else is Maya Moore's 40-point barrage against a Syracuse team doing its best to get in her head, her rib cage and anything else that might knock her off her game in January 2009.
With the Orange still in some degree of contact at 30-20 in the first half of that game in Hartford, Moore went on a run in which she outscored Syracuse 11-8 all by herself over the final eight minutes as the Huskies eased to a 20-point lead. She had 17 points and nine rebounds at halftime, and she was only getting started. Even as the Huskies dealt with having seen Doty go down with what proved to be a season-ending injury in the closing seconds of the first half, Moore put up 23 more points in the second half (UConn went on to win 107-53). She and her teammates (and their coach) didn't want to just beat the Orange, it seemed, they wanted to punish them. And that's exactly what champions do when someone tries to expose them as a mere bully.
It was clear before that game how much better the Huskies were than any other team. It was clear after that game that they knew it, and that Moore was the last person any team wanted to make angry. -- ESPN.com's Graham Hays
Lawson: Statement makers
There isn't one moment that sticks out, but there are two things that come to mind.
With any type of streak, everyone's always curious to know or to predict when it's going to be over or who will be the team to end the streak. Whether it's our producers or fans asking, the popular questions are what type of team will it take to beat UConn, or what type of game it needs to be for the Huskies to lose.
But when you go through all the scenarios and what-ifs for UConn to lose -- such as "If Tina Charles get in foul trouble" "If UConn has an off shooting night" "If someone gets hurt" "If the other team gets after the Huskies' guards" -- you realize it's probably not going to happen. You really have to have seven or eight what-ifs before you feel like someone really has a chance.
On top of all that, all those what-ifs have happened during the streak. There have been nights when the Huskies haven't shot the ball well and times Charles has gotten into foul trouble and times UConn has struggled with turnovers. But this team finds a way. And that's the remarkable thing.
The second thing is that whenever there seems to be a team or a matchup that maybe from the outside looks like it could be challenging, or a team that could give the Huskies a game, UConn goes out and, with great purpose, as if the Huskies know the critics think they might finally be threatened, just shows us once again that the Huskies are that much better than everybody else.
Look at Stanford in last year's Final Four. We all thought, "This is going to be a game." But it was over before the first media timeout. It feels like they don't just simply want to win -- the Huskies want to make statements when they win. -- ESPN's Kara Lawson
Creme: Huskies get to the point in Texas
Despite the dominant and unbeaten national championship run of 2009 and the prevailing thought that the Huskies were a big favorite to win it all again, a question did exist as to how the juggernaut would function without its catalyst, graduated point guard Renee Montgomery. She had been so important to what UConn was about that even with all the rest of the talent back -- Tina Charles and Maya Moore, most specifically -- it was worth wondering if there would be some erosion without the glue that tied it all together.
And the Montgomery-less Huskies didn't appear to have long to figure it out with a trip to San Antonio to meet top-15 ranked Texas in just the second game of the season.
As it turned out, the Huskies did have it all figured out. With Tiffany Hayes and Caroline Doty doing most of the ballhandling, UConn jumped all over the Longhorns and crushed yet another quality opponent. The balance was still there -- all five starters scored in double figures -- and the Huskies were never challenged in a 25-point win (83-58).
Minor question answered, streak very much intact and the countdown for the return trip to San Antonio for bigger things for a new edition of the Huskies was well under way. -- ESPN.com's Charlie Creme
Peck: Tina's turning point
They say it's not about where you start, but about where you finish. But when it comes to Connecticut's win streak, you can't help but go back to the beginning.
The Huskies haven't lost since falling to Stanford in the 2008 Final Four. UConn had beaten Stanford by 12 points earlier that season in a tournament in the U.S. Virgin Islands. But when the two met again in the national semifinals, the Huskies had lost starting guards Mel Thomas and Kalana Greene to season-ending knee injuries. And Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer had modified her offense to revolve around two post players rather than one, which made it harder for opponents to focus their energy on defending Candice Wiggins.
In the end, Stanford posts Kayla Pedersen finished with 17 points and Jayne Appel added 15. The Cardinal won 82-73.
"This is the one team we can't match up with without the two guys that were hurt," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said afterward. "We were caught in a situation where they were able to do things to us that we couldn't do to them."
But privately afterward, Auriemma also told the Huskies they lost because their post game wasn't strong enough. Tina Charles took what he said to heart and hasn't been the same since. And with all due respect to Maya Moore, Charles has been the anchor of UConn's current winning streak.
Moore is a great player who does tremendous things for UConn. I'm not taking away from her contributions to the team and to the game. But Charles has been the difference in UConn coming out and dominating ever since that Final Four loss. She has evolved into a dominating post player who we almost expect to get a double-double by halftime.
Charles' attitude also changed. Instead of questioning whether she is the best center in the country, she goes out to prove it every night. That dominating post presence and a consistent tenacity make Charles the leading candidate for national player of the year.
One year ago, just prior to the 2009 Big East tournament, Auriemma made another lasting impression on Charles. If she played like the best center in the country, he said, UConn could win the NCAA championship. She's still playing at that level, and the Huskies are still winning. -- ESPN's Carolyn Peck