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Friday, December 31, 2010

Stanford Ends UConn Women's Record 90-Game Winning Streak

STANFORD, Calif. -- The streak stops at 90.

Connecticut women's basketball still owns the Division I record for the longest win streak. But the Huskies will have to start a new one now.

Stanford -- the last team to beat Connecticut back in the 2008 Final Four -- took a quick lead on its home floor and, this time, the Cardinal held on to the end.

The ninth-ranked Cardinal pulled off a71-59 win over UConn in front of a sold-out crowd of 7,329 at Maples Pavilion Thursday night.

Connecticut (12-1) lost its first game since April 6, 2008 to a Stanford team that was experienced, motivated and well-prepared for this matchup, the sixth between the two programs since December 2007.

"The streak was for them and what they did. We're about Stanford and what we want to do," said Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer. "We didn't play a perfect game, but I thought we played very well."            

This is a new feeling for Connecticut. Disappointment.

"We've been talking about this for three months, talking about how (the Connecticut players) are missing out on a great opportunity to see what it feels like to try to get something and not get it," said Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma. "Yeah, there's a sense of disappointment that we didn't play well, but if you look beyond that, there's been other times during this thing where we didn't play well. It's just that there's never been anybody as good as Stanford played tonight."

Stanford, which had been game-planning this game for months, bottled up Huskies star Maya Moore for most of the game and made good use of its size advantage inside, out-rebounding and out-muscling the Huskies.

The Cardinal (9-2) also got a career night from senior guard Jeanette Pohlen. Pohlen scored a career-high 31 points.

Pohlen, who had struggled in previous games against the Huskies, was the Cardinal's tone-setter, pushing Stanford to its 52nd straight home win. Pohlen added nine rebounds and six assists to her total. She hit five three-pointers and was 10-of-10 from the free-throw line, including some crucial free throws down the stretch to keep UConn at bay.

"She was the All-American tonight," VanDerveer said.

The Cardinal led 34-30 at the half, the fourth halftime lead by Stanford against Connecticut in their last six meetings. But unlike last year when Stanford blew two leads, this one stuck.

"We knew we had each other's backs. We were very focused on what we had to do defensively and a lot of people stepped up and made big plays," Pohlen said.

Stanford weathered a final UConn rally to cut the lead to 63-57 with 2:19 to go and held the Huskies to just one basket over the final 4:46.

Moore struggled to find open shots much of the night. She had just six points at halftime on a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 14 points on 5-of-15 shooting from the floor. She didn't score until nearly 17 minutes into the game.

Moore, the two-time Wade Trophy winner, wore her disappointment on her face after the game. She talked about playing from behind from start to finish. Connecticut had trailed for a total of 113 minutes and 58 seconds in its entire 90-game win streak before Thursday night.

"I thought we showed moments of fight where we came together at times. Then we would do something to hurt ourselves," Moore said. "I would make a defensive mistake and they would get a lay-up and the momentum would shift right back to them. Momentum is so priceless and valuable for the away team and we just gave it away too many times."

"They were determined to make sure that somebody else on our team other than Maya Moore was going to be the one to carry the team," Auriemma said. "They've certainly been hurt by Maya enough the last couple of years and they were determined that that wasn't going to happen tonight."

VanDerveer put multiple players on Moore, principally freshman Chiney Ogwumike.

Stanford was not intimidated by the Huskies' mystique or their winning streak. And the Cardinal don't think this is the biggest thing that ever happened to them. Although, it happened in front of the biggest, loudest home crowds they've ever played in front of.

"This is not a national championship, but it's a very big game for us," VanDerveer said.

Connecticut shot 32.8 percent for the game and were out-rebounded 43-36. Stanford outscored the Huskies 28-14 in the paint. The Huskies were led by guard Kelly Faris with 19 points.

Connecticut was down by as many as 13 points in the first half before cutting the lead to four points. The Huskies had it down to four in the second half as well, cutting the Stanford lead to 48-44 with 10:49 to go. But the Cardinal answered every Connecticut run.

Auriemma said the 90-game win streak is even more remarkable considering how "easy" it was for him team to get beat Thursday night.

"At some point, reality has to set in and today reality set in," Auriemma said. "And I'm OK with it. I'm not distraught about it, don't get me wrong. Winning that many games in a row is just unheard of."

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