After a generation of success, one would tend to think that history and the opponent are the two-headed monster that UConn competes against on a nightly basis. That after twenty some years of hoop prominence and dominance, where success is measured in National Championships, that the past would be as big a motivator as the name on the opponents jersey. But, part of what makes a great a great team is the ability to focus on the job at hand and shut out the peripheral. And even as history’s shadow grows, this year’s team is focused on the moment. That’s quite a feat considering the legacy these players compete against, and contribute to, game in and game out.
The numbers this program has amassed aren’t just awe inspiring, they are numbers for the ages. Nine straight 30 win seasons. Eight NCAA Championships, with a chance to repeat as national champions for the third time in the Geno Auriemma era, with the ‘02-‘04 and ’09-’10, season’s being the others. Fourteen Final Fours including six straight. This year’s squad sitting just six wins away from a fifth undefeated season. A 40 game win streak, dating back to last season, which is good for the third best winning streak in program history. The numbers go on.
Auriemma was asked if, at 34-0, if history is a motivating factor, saying, “I don’t know. We really haven’t talked about it’, but added, “It’s funny, we have trivia questions for them in the pregame, just to break the ice, and a lot of the trivia is about our past history.”
And it would be super sophomore Breanna Stewart checking in as team trivia champ.
“(Stewart) is acutely aware of every single thing this program has done; who’s done it; when they did it and how many times they did it.”, said Auriemma.
Already posting impressive individual numbers and possessing a good bit of hardware herself, Stewart was asked about how this team looks at its legacy and said, “What motivates us is just perfection. I don’t think that we’re competing or comparing ourselves to other teams that have gone undefeated. It’s not about that right now. After the season’s over and if we do go undefeated, then that’s something we’ll look back on.”
Senior guard Bria Hartley, who, in the February 19 win over UCF, joined UConn greats Maya Moore and Diane Taurasi as the only Huskies to post 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists said, “(On the court) you’re playing more in the moment, playing against your competitor and history just kind of happens. If you’re able to make history along the way, that’s cool, but you don’t focus on it.”
Senior forward Stefanie Dolson, who on March 1 became only the fifth Husky to join the 1,000 point, 1,000 rebound club , echoed the sentiments of Hartley and Stewart saying, “I don’t think (The team) really thinks about (It’s place in history). We take it year by year and maybe in the back of your mind you’re thinking about that legacy and how we (compare to history) and that’s kind of cool to be part of that (conversation).”
Saying the right things about where this team will ultimately be judged is all well and good from the player’s perspective, but in the grand scheme of things Auriemma said, “I do know this. Winning one Championship at UConn makes everyone say ‘That’s nice’. But, if you really want to be in the conversation of really good teams then you gotta win at least two.”
History is never far behind.
Top seeded and top ranked UConn (34-0) of the American Athletic Conference opens NCAA first round play at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion Sunday evening at 8 p.m., tipping off against 16 seed Prairie View A & M (14-17) for the second time in three years. The Huskies knocked off the Panthers of the Southwest Athletic Conference, 83-47, in first round play in 2012.