UConn rallies, replicates perfection

Baltimore Sun

It began on the steps of the Connecticut state Capitol on a cold April day last season with Geno just being Geno. The parade celebrating UConn's sixth title had just ended. The Huskies coach stepped to a microphone.

"I don't know how we're going to be able to go 39-0 next year," said Geno Auriemma, the Connecticut coach. "The only reason I say that is, if we win every game we play next year we'll be 40-0."

Your first thought: He must be joking. Your second thought: Maybe he's not.

You know how basketball is? So much can happen from the blueprint to the bouquets that just getting the chance to win a national championship is a blessing.

But to win another championship in the same fashion, so fluently, so flawlessly, so fabulously, as UConn did Tuesday night, is something the sport may never see again.

"Unbelievable," Auriemma said.

The magnificent run to a seventh national championship for the nation's pre-eminent college basketball program ended with an unusual but emphatic 53-47 win over Stanford before an announced 22,936 at The Alamodome.

"It's hard to be consistent every single day," said Maya Moore, who led the Huskies with 23 points, 18 in the second half.

Yes it is. The Huskies won despite shooting only 32.8 percent (19-for-58), the lowest percentage in any of their 78 straight wins. But a win is a win.

" President Barack Obama, we're baaaaack," said Tina Charles, informing the White House that the Huskies plan to return for a second straight spring.

Kayla Pedersen led Stanford (36-2) with 15 points. Both of the Cardinal losses were to the Huskies. UConn is 7-0 in national championship games.

"We came up short," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "We didn't score all the points we needed to score.

The Huskies plucked the victory from the jaws of embarrassing disaster after scoring 12 first-half points, the fewest ever scored in one half of a Final Four game.

"There was a point when I literally thought we might never score again," Auriemma said. "It was one of the few times I can ever remember being speechless. I've never seen anything like it in my life."

The Huskies trailed 20-12 at the half and then came out smoking in the second, scoring 17 of the first 19 points, including 12 straight. Moore's 3-pointer with 14:23 to play gave UConn a 23-22 lead. During its 77-game winning streak, it had never trailed later than 14:47.

"During halftime, we said we knew they would be making a run," Pedersen said.

Soon after came its first 10-point lead (38-27) when Charles scored at the rim.

UConn's bold approach had carried it through this season, but the only thing Auriemma ever really feared, an ill-timed doomsday scenario, reared its head with unfathomable fury in the first half.

The Huskies fought back to 20-17 and then caught a break when Stanford's All-America center Jayne Appel, already dealing with bad right ankle, aggravated it taking a charge with 15:48 to play. It took all she had to hobble to the bench.

Appel had the ankle retaped, went to the locker room and returned with 12:30 to play, the Huskies ahead, 27-22. But she was soon back on the bench. She did not score a point for the first time in her career.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad