The UConn women’s basketball team made history last night, with their 82-51 win over Syracuse in the NCAA National Championship game.
The numbers are extraordinary: one program, eleven national titles, six undefeated seasons; four years, four national championships; three seniors – Breanna Stewart, Morgan Tuck, and Moriah Jefferson – with four championships apiece.
And there are other numbers that reflect just what the program is made of: Stewart’s four-in-a-row honors as NCAA Final Four most outstanding player; the team’s current unbroken stretch of 75 wins (though that number hasn’t yet surpassed the Huskies’ previous winning streak of 90 games from 2008 through 2011).
And, importantly, a couple of dozen former players among the fans watching the game at Indianapolis, including UConn greats Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, and Maya Moore. In addition, one alumna – Shea Ralph – was on the sidelines as assistant coach, and another – Rebecca Lobo – onsite as a commentator for ESPN.
From a team that once played in Field House with just a handful of friends and families to cheer them on, over the past 30 years, head coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey have built the program into the preeminent women’s college basketball program in the country.
The records set last night are going to be hard for any team to beat – except perhaps the Huskies themselves.
This season was the sixth undefeated season for Auriemma, with the team averaging a winning margin of 39.9 points per game.The last time the women lost was on Nov. 17, 2014, in an 88-86 overtime loss at Stanford.
And a certain basketball court in Washington, D.C., as President Obama joked to the team on their third consecutive champions’ visit to the White House last year, may just be looking at getting a new name.
Among the records set last night:
Coach Auriemma passed legendary John Wooden for the most NCAA basketball titles of all time. The late John Wooden, men’s basketball coach at UCLA, won 10 national titles, the most in college ball history. Auriemma has never lost a championship game. The wins: 1995, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016.
“What those 11 championships mean to me is how many great players I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” Auriemma told the media. “How many great people have come through the program. It doesn’t matter whose name is above, or whose name I’m under. As long as I have those players in my memory, I’m good.”
With last night’s win, Stewart became the first player to win the Final Four Most Outstanding Player Award four times. No other player has even won three.
“It wasn’t a sense of relief, it was a sense of success. This is exactly what we wanted,” Stewart said to the media afterward. “Going into every one of our national championship runs, we were confident and that’s what we were tonight, confident.”