HOUSTON — It began in November 1985 at Iona's tiny and dark gym in New Rochelle, N.Y., a game that UConn won, but one that few remember exactly how.
And now 999 games later, UConn's Geno Auriemma's trip to intercollegiate athletic royalty reached its grand milestone in a building where Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler became icons at the University of Houston.
What will the world remember in 30 years? Certainly not that the Huskies pounded Houston 92-41 before just 1,569 at Hofheinz Pavilion. That was expected.
Likely, it will remember a touchstone day that symbolized how amazing it seems that this has happened with a program that had just one winning season before Auriemma arrived.
"Am I ready for another 1,000? I don't think so," Auriemma said. "Whatever number comes next for me isn't going to be another 1,000. We'll go one at a time for now and see how it goes."
No. 1 UConn (28-0, 15-0) won its 34th straight game dating to the start of last year's NCAA Tournament. And the Huskies did it with customary ease against a Cougars program suffering mightily (5-22, 1-15) this season.
By the way, Auriemma's all-time record at UConn is now 867-133, a nifty winning percentage of 86.7 percent. And the Huskies have lost only 52 games since the start of the championship era in 1994-95, which defies statistical probability.
"I can't imagine coaching 1,000 games," Bria Hartley said. "I can't imagine playing 1,000 games. It's been such a privilege to come here and play for him. I just hope he keeps it going."
Hartley scored 24 points, shooting 8-for-12, enabling her to pass Tiffany Hayes into the program's Top 10 scorers with 1,802 points. She also had five rebounds and four assists.
Stefanie Dolson added 24 points and nine rebounds. She was 8-for-8 from the field and had three blocked shots.
It was Dolson's fourth 20-plus game this season, her first since scoring 25 at Central Florida on Jan. 1. It was Hartley's ninth game with 20 or more, including three of her past five.
And Breanna Stewart, who scored her 1,000th point in her 63rd game last week, added another 16 in her 64th along with seven rebounds, five assists, two blocks and three steals. But she also had six turnovers.
The Huskies next play SMU in Dallas on Wednesday. After that, they have two regular season games remaining, Saturday's Senior Day at Gampel Pavilion against Rutgers and March 3 at Louisville.
Auriemma said many times in the past few weeks that he didn't even realize his 1,000th game was approaching. And, frankly, there wasn't much energy in Hofheinz to remind him, with the exception of a good-sized Huskies fan base, whose cheers awakened a building basically left barren after the crowd there to see the Houston men play Central Florida hit the streets.
But this was not an especially entertaining game as UConn routs go. The Huskies played with just enough juice, not quite the way they did last Wednesday to beat UCF at the XL Center. That was a day for the players: Stewart's 1,000th career point, Hartley's admission to the 1,500-500-500 club (points, rebounds, assists).
In fact, Auriemma wasn't very happy at halftime, despite leading 40-16 and holding the Cougars to just three points in the final 9:32.
"No, he wasn't thrilled," Dolson said. "We did a lot of poor things in the half."
Auriemma was more to the point.
"I thought the first 20 minutes were pointless," Auriemma said. "It's just another example that no matter how many plays we make that look great, there will always be days when you just can't get into any rhythm. … But the second half was way, way better."
And yet it was a day in which UConn shot a season-high 64 percent (32-for-50), went to the free throw line 31 times and forced 18 turnovers.
"We never want to play below the standard we have set, and that's what we did in the first half," Hartley said.
UConn never trailed. It scored the first seven points and was leading 19-13 when Te'onna Campbell, who had 10 of her team-high 15 points in the first half, scored one of the Cougars' six first-half field goals with 9:32 to play.
From there, it was all blue. The Huskies began an 11-0 roll that increased the lead to 17. And with Houston scoring only three points in the remainder of the half, the lead grew to 20 (34-14) with 2:42 to play and just ballooned from there.
Dolson and Hartley both scored 13 points in the first half. Stewart added 10. The Huskies actually took five fewer shots than Houston in the opening 20 minutes, but Houston's 6-for-30 performance (20 percent) more than compensated.
The Cougars have now lost four straight and 14 of 15 since beating Rice on Dec. 20, the last game that Todd Buchanan coached before his unexpected resignation.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun