April 8, 2010
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma didn't even have a chance to enjoy what his Huskies had accomplished during their 78-game winning streak and unprecedented consecutive unbeaten seasons before the question arose.
Can they win another title next year?
"People are going to expect us to win a national championship because we've got Maya Moore," Auriemma said. "And I would say: 'Good. So do I."
It's hard to argue with him after Moore almost single-handedly saved the Huskies from Stanford in the championship game Tuesday night. For the first time during its streak, UConn looked vulnerable, trailing the Cardinal by eight at halftime after scoring a meager 12 points - a new NCAA championship low.
Moore refused to let it all slip away.
The tournament's most outstanding player scored 11 of the Huskies' first 17 points in the second half, and UConn held on for a 53-47 victory and a seventh national title. Moore finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds while adding to her ever-growing resume.
"It's what great players do," Auriemma said. "They do it at the most pressure packed times that makes them who they are."
It didn't take Auriemma long to think of the only other player he could use for comparison: "Diana (Taurasi) was the only one that resembled that at all," he said.
Like Taurasi, Moore will have less of a supporting cast next year as the Huskies try to win a third straight title - matching their run from 2002-04. It would tie Auriemma with Pat Summitt for the most in women's basketball history and leave him two short of John Wooden's record of 10 championships on the men's side.
With four more victories, the Huskies would break the women's all-division record of 81 in a row, set by Washington University in 1998-2001. Then they'd be left to chase only Wooden's vaunted 88-game winning streak he set with UCLA from 1971-74.
Don't count Auriemma among those who see reaching that mark as a realistic possibility.
"It's not going to happen," Auriemma said. "Eight of our 11 non-conference games next year are against teams that were in the top 15 this season."
The Huskies will play fellow Final Four participants Stanford, Oklahoma and Baylor next season, as well as Ohio State and Duke. Some of those matchups will happen before the potential 88th consecutive victory.
Even if they do win their first 11 games next year, Auriemma admits it's not the same.
"We're not men's basketball, and I'm not John Wooden. That's a record that will always stand," Auriemma said. "It's flattering to be mentioned in that company, but I'm just trying to think of what we need to do."
Auriemma will need to find someone to replace Tina Charles, who will most likely be the first pick in the WNBA draft Thursday.
"Maya's greatest challenge next year is going to be that for the first time in her college career she will be the older leader and not have a lot of help," Auriemma said.
Still, Auriemma's squad is in better shape than the 2003 team led by Taurasi that won the second of three straight titles. Four of the starters from the 2002 team that went undefeated graduated to the WNBA, including Sue Bird and Swin Cash. It left Taurasi pretty much to carry the team herself.
Moore will have help from the backcourt of Tiffany Hayes and Caroline Doty, who haven't lost a college game and don't plan to anytime soon. UConn also will be counting on a strong freshmen class to fill the holes left by Charles, Kalana Greene and the other graduating seniors.
"I'm going to miss them," Moore said. "They have, I think, been the most improved players. They're leaders for our team, and we're going to absolutely miss that."