December 31, 2010
To put in perspective how long it's been since the UConn women's basketball team last lost a game, consider that Heath Ledger had just died, Beyonce's "Single Ladies" was atop the pop charts and the Jersey Shore was still a place and not a TV phenomenon.
That win streak is now history.
In a game that isn't nearly as big a David-felling-Goliath story as it has so far been portrayed, ninth-ranked Stanford halted the Huskies' NCAA record-setting 90-game win streak with a 71-59 victory in Palo Alto, Calif. It's UConn's first defeat since another loss to Stanford in the 2008 Final Four, meaning the Cardinal have bracketed the Huskies' streak just the way Notre Dame bookended the UCLA men's 88-game win streak from 1971-74.
UConn appeared so invincible at times during its streak that it often seemed the Huskies might never lose again, but there's a reason Thursday's game has long been circled as the date Geno Auriemma's squad might show its mortality.
National player of the year Maya Moore returned from UConn's undefeated title-winning teams of the past two years, but three starters from those squads have graduated, including co-stars Renee Montgomery and Tina Charles. And Stanford had no reason to be intimidated facing the Huskies, having twice held a lead at halftime against them last season and playing in front of a sellout crowd at Maples Pavilion, where the Cardinal had won 51 in a row.
Nonethless, other teams have believed they could beat UConn, so credit Stanford for having the combination of size, talent and sheer will to accomplish what nobody else has been able to do.
Point guard Jeanette Pohlen scored 31 points and sank clutch shots whenever it seemed UConn was about to unleash the type of second-half run that cost the Cardinal twice last season. And at the other end of the floor, Stanford's athletic front line shackled Moore, holding her scoreless for nearly the first 17 minutes of the game and limiting her to 14 points on 5-for-15 shooting overall.
As UConn piled up blowout victories last season, there was always the debate over whether it was healthy for women's basketball that one team was so dominant over everyone else.
The streak demanded attention from TV viewers when UConn eked out a 65-64 win over second-ranked Baylor in November and when the Huskies eclipsed UCLA's 88-game streak with a win over Florida State earlier this month. Now we'll see whether casual fans will still pay attention to women's basketball when the perception is that the sport features a handful of very good teams instead of one historic one.