Tina Charles in the locker room on Monday (AP)
April 5, 2010
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Imagine walking across the ledge of a 77-story building. Looking down would be dizzying for almost anybody, so the focus is always on being safe and secure with the next step.
And that's how the Connecticut Huskies have won 77 straight basketball games.
Their amazing streak - every victory by double-digits - has brought UConn to the brink of a second straight national championship and the first back-to-back unbeaten seasons in women's college basketball history.
Yet as they got ready to play Stanford in the title game Tuesday night, the Huskies weren't about to talk about those glorious rewards finally being within reach.
After all, they can't afford a misstep now.
"You don't have enough room in your head to think about that," star forward Maya Moore said Monday. "It's something our coaches emphasize and we as a team have believed in. We have accepted that way of thinking and it's worked great. We're not going to change that mindset at this point. ... You don't want to let the potential of greatness to distract you."
But isn't it only human nature to be thinking about cutting down the nets inside the cavernous Alamodome? To daydream about taking one of those pictures where you stand back-to-back with a teammate?
"We do a lot of things that are against human nature," Moore said, laughing. "You just have to discipline yourself to stay focused. You may have to limit your contact with a lot of outside hoopla going on. But I really do think that because it's such a habit for us, it's not that hard. Ever since I've been in this program, it's been that way. We just stay focused on the little things every day and if you look up at the end of the season, you should be where you want to be."
It's hard to argue with UConn's formula.
Guided by coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies have won five of the last 10 NCAA titles and reached at least the regional finals all but once since 2000.
This season, they have trailed only twice during the second half. This tournament, they have trailed a total of 8 seconds, and that was back in the first round.
"We're in the position that every senior that plays college basketball wants to be in," said Kalana Greene, who along with AP player of the year Tina Charles will be playing her final game for UConn on Tuesday night. "I think we're just going to try to focus everyone up because these are the last couple of moments as a team. And we're enjoying it. I know I am."
"Coming out of high school, you're thinking, OK, you win some and you lose some," said Hayes, who lost her last high school game, a state championship in Florida. "Me not losing is surreal. But you have to take it in and move on. You can't think about, 'Oh, I haven't lost a game so it's not going to happen.' Any one of these days it can happen, this year or next year."
Auriemma is the master of it all, constantly pushing his players to be perfect.
Not to have perfect seasons or even perfect games, but to have what he calls "perfect effort."
He also doesn't talk about the streak, figuring that's something that will take care of itself.
"I don't know if they talk about it among themselves," he said. "I don't know what they're doing. I don't know how they do it. But whatever they're doing, I hope they keep doing it."