Cameron Dollar still remembers the ribbing. A former UCLA standout from 1994-97, there was constant talk and pride taken in the 88-game win streak set by the Bruins from 1971-74 under legendary coach John Wooden.
And there was constant yapping from Notre Dame alums and players, too.
“We’d go to Notre Dame and they’d be talking about it, how they broke it,” said Dollar, who’s currently coaching Seattle University. “They’d kind of stick it in our face a little bit.”
The historical marked never believed to be matched was tied on Sunday as No. 1 Connecticut slaughtered No. 13 Ohio State 81-50 at the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden. The Huskies aim to break the all-time NCAA record on ESPN2 on Tuesday at 4 p.m. PST against No. 22 Florida State, which is coached by Seattle native Sue Semrau.
Of course, I should note we’re talking about women’s hoops here, which somehow has degraded the accomplishment and sparked the expected firestorm of opinions of where Huskies coach Geno Auriemma should be placed in terms of “great” coaches and how the streak should be compared — from volleyball to its own category.
“It’s obviously two different sports so it’s apples and oranges,” Dollar said. “The men’s game is apples and oranges from the women’s game. I think both streaks in their own sports are really special. But I think it’s different because of the game.
“The mark of consistency. To be able to do that over and over and over, again, is something that’s really special. I’m proud of it (the men’s mark). It was born out of patience and plugging through. Not giving up. I watched the women some, but not a lot. I’m familiar with UConn, but watched them more when they had Rebecca Lobo.”
Dollar’s counterpart on campus, SU coach Joan Bonvicini, released her Italian passion when suggested that the men’s game is different from the women’s, so the streaks don’t compare.
I don’t remember this much aggression when Pat Summitt became the all-time winningest coach. If you don’t remember, she surpassed Dean Smith’s 879 NCAA wins.
“That’s a crock, it really is,” said Bonvicini of the streaks not comparing because of gender. “It’s an amazing streak. And how long it goes on? Records are made to be honored, but also made to be broken. It’s an amazing achievement, I don’t care what sport it is.”
The gender argument wasn’t lost on Auriemma after the win on Sunday. He’s good for using postgame interviews as a pulpit for his weekly message and it was no different in the bowels of MSG.
“I just know there wouldn’t be this many people in the room if we were chasing a woman’s record,” said Auriemma, according to the Associated Press. “The reason everybody is having a heart attack the last four or five days is a bunch of women are threatening to break a men’s record, and everybody is all up in arms about it.
“All the women are happy as hell and they can’t wait to come in here and ask questions. All the guys that loved women’s basketball are all excited, and all the miserable bastards that follow men’s basketball and don’t want us to break the record are all here because they’re pissed. That’s just the way it is.”
After spending a week talking with colleagues and friends about the streak, personally I hope FSU can find a way to stop UConn so the debate stands. There are differences in the game, but I don’t think in their relative sports that UCLA had to face as stiff of competition as UConn today.
Numbers say the Bruins defeated 18 ranked opponents during their run compared to 29 for the Huskies. But while the Pac-10 was competitive, I think players today are better trained and specialized across the board and the goal is to beat UConn.
Not enough resources goes into women’s hoops, but recruiting is different, too, compared to the 1970s. Although, from stories my Dad has shared, it was pretty ruthless then. But Auriemma not only had to get the top players, get freshmen to play like seniors, but also get them to play above the great talent they already possessed to insure there were never any slipups – over three years, so far.
And if anyone saw the way junior G Tiffany Hayes jumped on OSU after it scored the opening six points, finishing with a game-high 26 points on 10-for-17 shooting from the field, you probably wonder if that child will ever lose a game in her college life. That kind of attack-mode comes with talent and coaching. In addition to Maya Moore, she’s a reason why the streak is so impressive and why people need to get over themselves and prepare for a new standard in basketball.
“I’m glad I got a chance to play UConn, it’s going to be something I can look back on and say I got a chance to play the best team in the country,” said Washington guard Kristi Kingma, whose Huskies were win No. 8 for Connecticut. “At this age, there’s such a level of equality with all the recruiting and players have all of this opportunities to get better and all of these different club teams. UConn has surpassed all of that. They’ve gotten the best players year in and year out. Geno has made sure they’re ready for every game and to not have a lapse is crazy. I consider myself a heady and steady player and I go through lapses all the time. For that whole team not to have any is crazy.”
TV ALERT: ESPN is catching a clue now that the record is upon us with a full slate of coverage for possible win No. 89 for Connecticut on Tuesday. Storm PG Sue Bird, an alum, is slated to be part of a panel discussion at 2 p.m. on ESPNU and the station will air canned video highlights.
A full rundown of what ESPN has planned can be found here.
NO RECORD: Sorry Doris Burke and Dave O’Brien, but you were given bad information as you offered play-by-play and color for UConn’s win on Sunday. The 15,232 fans was not the largest crowd to see a women’s basketball game at Madison Square Garden, as you repeatedly stated.
I didn’t look up all of the NY Liberty games, but just glimpsing through a few media guides, the WNBA’s inaugural All-Star game at the Garden drew 18,649 fans in 1999. And if you want a “regulation” game, the defunct Houston Comets defeated the Liberty 73-60 for its third WNBA title before 17,113 at the Garden the same season.
RANK ‘EM: Here’s what I submitted this week for the AP poll. No comments this week because I’m a prograsta-Santa and need to get some shopping done. Here’s the official tally.
1. Connecticut (10-0)
2. Baylor (10-1)
3. Xavier (10-0)
4. Duke (11-0)
5. UCLA (9-0)
6. West Virginia (11-0)
7. North Carolina (11-0)
8. Texas A&M (9-1)
9. Tennessee (10-2)
10. Kentucky (8-1)
11. Michigan State (11-1)
12. Oklahoma (9-2)
13. Stanford (6-2)
14. St. John’s (11-1)
15. Iowa (10-1)
16. Iowa State (7-2)
17. Maryland (10-1)
18. Kansas State (8-1)
19. Florida State (9-2)
20. Ohio State (8-2)
21. Notre Dame (8-3)
22. USC (7-3)
23. DePaul (13-1)
24. Arkansas (11-0)
25. Bowling Green (10-1)
GOLDEN APPLE: Another variation of the award. Giving the nod to Storm F Swin Cash, whose 10 boards helped her team in China move into first place of its league. This also provides an opportunity to tell you she provides updates of her games here since it’s difficult to find stats on the web.