Stanford University will try tonight to complete bookends around the University of Connecticut’s record 90-game women’s basketball winning streak, just as Notre Dame did to UCLA’s men in the 1970s.
Stanford is the last team to defeat the Huskies, winning at the 2008 national championship semifinals. The Cardinal will be on their home court at the 7,329-seat Maples Pavilion as they try to end Connecticut’s undefeated run.
The John Wooden-coached UCLA teams, whose mark of 88 straight wins was eclipsed last week by the Huskies, lost to Notre Dame on either side of their streak in 1971-74.
“I’m excited about it,” Maya Moore, Connecticut’s career scoring leader and the reigning two-time national player of the year, told reporters. “What better situation could you ask for? It’s going to be a battle, but that’s exactly the kind of game we want.”
The last time the teams met was in the 2010 national championship game in April, won 53-47 by Connecticut for its second straight title. Stanford’s only losses in a 36-2 record last season were both to the Huskies.
Stanford (8-2) has its own streak going, having won 51 straight games at home since March 2007. The Huskies (12-0) will be making their first visit to the northern California school since 1993.
The Cardinal’s Tara VanDerveer is one of the few college coaches who can boast more victories than Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma. VanDerveer, 57, has 801 wins in 32 seasons. Auriemma, 56, is in his 26th season and has won 747 games.
Auriemma has seven national titles. VanDerveer has two, the latest in 1992. Connecticut, which has won by 10 or more points in 88 of the 90 victories during its streak, has outscored opponents by an average of 33 points per game during the run.
No ‘Intimidation Factor’
“Our team has had experience playing against UConn,” VanDerveer said. “It’s not like this game will be our first time. There isn’t that intimidation factor.”
The Huskies likely will be missing the quickness of Lorin Dixon, a reserve guard who sprained her left foot during practice earlier this week, and Auriemma said he’s worried about matching up with Stanford’s tall front line.
The Cardinal feature 6-foot-4 Kayla Pedersen, Joslyn Tinkle (6-3) and sisters Nnemkadi (6-2) and Chiney (6-3) Ogwumike. Connecticut starts three players shorter than 6 feet.
“It’s going to be very difficult for us to match up with them,” Auriemma told reporters. “We can’t get any bigger and we just got a lot slower.”
Plus, the Huskies start two freshmen, guard Bria Hartley and center Stefanie Dolson. Moore is Connecticut’s only senior starter.
“This is our first real test (this season) against a great team on their home court,” Auriemma said. “I hope they (freshmen) respond the way I want them to, but you’re just never sure.”