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UConn ties NCAA mark with 88th straight win

Geno Auriemma, head coach of the Connecticut Huskies

Geno Auriemma, head coach of the Connecticut Huskies yells from the sidelines against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden. (Dec. 19, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

One big game down, one big game to go.

The Connecticut women's basketball team tied a 36-year-old record for consecutive wins Sunday with an 81-50 victory over No. 11 Ohio State in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden.

The Huskies' 88th win in a row tied the Division I record set by John Wooden's UCLA men's teams of the early 1970s. Connecticut will attempt to break it Tuesday night against No. 15 Florida State in Hartford.

Tiffany Hayes scored 26 points and two-time national player of the year Maya Moore had 22 points and five assists for UConn in a nationally televised game played in front of 15,232 fans, a Garden record for a women's college basketball game.

"It's kind of mind-boggling,'' Moore said. "We know it's something special, but it's tough to take in the reality of what is going on.''

What is going on is that Connecticut is being compared to Wooden's UCLA teams, which won 10 national titles. After the game, Ohio State coach Jim Foster said he believes the women's game is at about the same point in its development that the men's game was when UCLA was so dominant.

"The winning streak forces those who have no interest to have an interest in women's basketball,'' Foster said. "It brings discussion into a game that sort of needs it.''

One thing that isn't up for discussion is the fact that there appears to be a vast divide between the Connecticut program and the rest of the NCAA field.

UConn freshman point guard Bria Hartley (North Babylon) had 13 points and five assists in winning her battle with Ohio State junior point guard Samantha Prahalis (Commack). Prahalis shot 2-for-17 and was held to seven points and four assists. All-American center Jantel Lavender also struggled, scoring 14 points and shooting 7-for-21 for the Buckeyes.

Coach Geno Auriemma has tried to downplay the streak in the past, but before the game, he made a point of letting his players know exactly what kind of opportunity awaited them.

"You don't stumble and bumble into history,'' Auriemma said. "You don't accidentally fall into the history books. You have to do it the right way if you want to get there. It would have been stupid for me not to remind them of this.''

Ohio State (8-2) looked fired up at the start, hitting three-pointers for a 6-0 lead. But Connecticut (10-0), fueled by nine straight points by Hayes, scored the next 13 points to take the lead for good. A 19-6 run gave the Huskies a 38-21 lead, and Ohio State never threatened after that.

Auriemma seemed to welcome the comparison with Wooden's record-setting teams, saying: "If you look at what UCLA was running 37 years ago, you'll see the same stuff. I think the one thing we really have in common is that we settle for nothing less than the absolute best.''

In the run, which began with the season opener in 2008-09, the Huskies have an average margin of 33 points a game. They are 30-0 against ranked opponents and 16-0 against those in the top 10. Only two games have been decided by fewer than 10 points.

In last season's national championship game, the Huskies beat Stanford, 53-47. And the streak might have ended Nov. 16 if Hartley hadn't scored eight points in the final four minutes in a 65-64 victory over Baylor.

In the first game of the Maggie Dixon Classic, Texas A&M defeated Rutgers, 79-50.

New York Sports