UConn women top Syracuse to tie record with 70th straight win
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said he’d be excited about the team’s 70-game winning streak, if that was where the Huskies wanted to stop.
Tina Charles tied a career high with 34 points and Maya Moore added 16 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead top-ranked UConn (31-0) to the 77-41 rout of Syracuse in the Big East quarterfinals on Sunday.
The win tied the program’s own record for the longest winning streak in women’s college basketball. Each win has come by at least 10 points and an average of more than 32.
Auriemma said none of that is important as the Huskies chase a 16th conference tournament title and a seventh national championship.
“Let’s say we win tomorrow and lost Tuesday, what are the kids going to do, go to half court and put their fingers up and say, ‘We won 70, 71?” Auriemma said.
UConn is in the conference semifinals for the 22nd straight year, where the Huskies will face Notre Dame. The Irish beat St. John’s 75-67 in Sunday’s first quarterfinal.
Kayla Alexander scored 11 to lead the Orange (22-10).
The 36-point margin of victory was the largest for UConn since it beat Louisville by 46 on Feb. 7. Charles hit 16 of her 19 shots, setting a record for the most field goals in a Big East tournament game. Six of her buckets came on assists from Moore.
“I think that’s always the game plan, to get Tina the ball as much as possible,” said Moore. “We always try to look for each other and if I’m out on the perimeter or in the short corner, in the high post, I’m always going to look inside if she’s posting up there.”
Moore came into the game needing 13 points to reach 2,000 for her career. She reached that with 18:39 to play on a steal and layup that made it 48-17.
UConn showed a hint of jitters when Moore opened the game with a shot from the corner that missed everything, but the Huskies then reeled off seven points and went on a 17-2 run over the first 6 minutes, getting six each from Moore and Charles.
“I think everybody was just anxious to play, but yet patient and just waiting for everything,” Charles said. “We had great intensity. We had great energy.”
Syracuse hit just four of its first 20 shots, two of them layups by Alexander, and trailed 31-11 with more than 6 minutes left in the half. During the same period of time, Charles had hit six of her first seven shots.
The Orange hit just 14 of its 66 shots from the field (21.2 percent) overall, while the Huskies were hitting 51.6% of their shots. Syracuse was even worse in the first half, shooting just over 18% from the floor.
The Huskies’ winning streak ties one the program set from Nov. 9, 2001, to March 11, 2003, when it lost in the Big East semifinals to Villanova. UConn is 57-12 in conference tournament games, and the Huskies have now won 135 straight against unranked opponents.
But Auriemma said the team doesn’t talk about its streaks. He said that would be like asking a pitcher to discuss a no-hitter while he’s in the fifth inning.
“The object is to win the game and strike out as many guys as you can and get guys to swing at bad pitches and all that other good stuff,” he said. “You’re not necessarily thinking in the fifth inning, ‘I can’t give up a hit, because I’m pitching a no-hitter.’ Sure as hell, the next guy is going to hit one off the wall.”
Syracuse, the tournament’s ninth seed, may have done enough to earn an NCAA berth with wins over No. 7 West Virginia in its regular-season finale and Providence in the second round of the tournament. That 76-71 victory on Saturday was the first in the Big East tournament for the Orange since 2005.
“I think that we’re a good basketball team and I think we are NCAA talent,” said Orange coach Quentin Hillsman. “If they vote us into the tournament, we’re going to go and play hard, if not, we’re going to go into the NIT and we’re going to play hard there.”
The semifinal Monday will be the third meeting this season between the Huskies and Irish. UConn beat Notre Dame by 24 points in each of the other two games.
Irish coach Muffet McGraw isn’t conceding defeat, but acknowledges UConn is a great team.
“I think as long as they continue to play defense the way they have, they’ve got a great shot of going undefeated,” she said.