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UConn basketball puts history - and UCLA - in its sights

The UConn Huskies women's basketball team will seek its record-setting second straight undefeated season and 78th consecutive win in the championship game against Stanford tonight. Only the UCLA men's basketball team ever won more consecutive games – 88, from 1971 to 1974.

By Ross AtkinStaff writer / April 6, 2010

The UConn women's basketball team and Player of the Year Tina Charles (31) had a gut check when it faced Baylor and freshman sensation Brittney Griner (42) in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament. Connecticut rallied to win the game, 70-50, and will play Stanford in tonight's final at 8:30 p.m. ET.

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One more victory. That’s all that stands between the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team tonight and its 78th straight win, back-to-back national championships, and a secure place as the greatest women’s squad in NCAA basketball history – and arguably the best ever of either gender.

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And yes, that includes the undefeated UCLA men’s teams led by Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton during the late 1960s and early 1970s. As great as they were, they never dominated the way the UConn women have this year.

UConn’s march to tonight’s championship game in San Antonio against Stanford has been one relentless “shock and awe” campaign. In fact, the Huskies have been so untouchable that commentators have taken to asking two questions:

1. Is their dominance bad for women’s basketball?

2. Does this mean that the women’s game is not progressing the way it should, and that UConn has somehow leapfrogged far ahead of the field?

How have they done it?

Certainly the Huskies,with their relentless defense, balanced scoring, and well-oiled team play, have revolved in a separate orbit this season. Their average margin of victory has been nearly 36 points per game.

During 1,520 minutes of play they have only trailed during 38 minutes. Maybe most impressive of all, in the tournament, when the competition presumably is tougher, UConn has beaten its opponents by 56, 54, 38, 40, and 20 points.

The most recent game, against Baylor University’s Lady Bears’ and their 6 ft., 8 in. freshman center, Brittney Griner, was the closest thing to a gut check since beating Stanford by 12 points (UConn’s slimmest margin of victory) on Dec. 23. That Stanford game was in Hartford, Conn., where UConn plays selected home games when not averaging 10,260 spectators per game in Gampel Pavilion, its on-campus arena in Storrs, Conn.

The return date with Stanford in tonight’s final in San Antonio’s Alamodome is a fitting final exam for the Huskies. Stanford, after all, has lost only one game itself during a 36-1 campaign. They haven’t looked as invincible as UConn, but the Cardinal feature a trio of strong, wily, and tall frontcourt players hungry to bring Stanford its first NCAA title since 1992.

It was Stanford, by the way, which handed Connecticut its last loss, in the national semifinals two years ago. And now the Cardinal squad, led by supersoph Nigerian-American Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who scored 38 points in a 73-66 semifinal win over Oklahoma, is all that stands between UConn and a record second straight perfect season.

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