As arguably the finest Women’s Division One College Basketball Coach of all time took the podium on a windy Indy Saturday afternoon – accepting his 8th Associated Press Coach of The Year Award – something out of the ordinary happened: Geno Auriemma showed a little vulnerability.
Forty-seven seconds into seemingly his annual C.O.T.Y. acceptance monologue, it appeared that a miscellaneous teardrop was attempting to conjure up the nerve to dribble out his right eye. (His left eye if you were facing his basket). And for the next several moments the UCONN front man showed a side of himself that tabloid magazine’s would pay to stage!
After several room-gripping pauses during this strange-yet-authentic moment, Auriemma offered the gathered press somewhat of an explanation: “I usually don’t get like this, I don’t know what the hell is going on.”
Eventually Geno snapped out of this rare sentimental moment, locked-in and focused his efforts on why his team made the trip to Indianapolis in the first place.
The next evening – right on cue and with emotions in check – the UCONN Huskies sandblasted the Oregon State Beavers 80-51 in semi-final round action of the Women’s Final Four at a packed Banker’s Life Field House in downtown Indianapolis.
Geno’s seniors led the charge with Morgan Tuck hitting shot after uncontested shot from the outside and connecting for 16 first half points as the Huskies raced out to a 47-26 half-time lead. Tuck finished with 21 points to lead all scorers.
Moriah Jefferson was her steady, rock-solid self, keeping the UCONN motor running on both the offensive and defensive ends. She played all but two minutes of the contest knocking down 10 points while handing out 7 assists.
All-American forward Breanna Stewart was held scoreless in the first quarter, committed two personal fouls and was relegated to the bench for a minute; but responded nicely in the remaining three quarters, ending with 16 points.
The Connecticut defense suffocated the Beavers offense by forcing 18 turnovers and limiting the Pac 12 representative to 32% shooting from the field. Oregon State’s Big Three of Jamie Weisner, Ruth Hamblin, and Sydney Wiese were limited to 32 points collectively.
The 29-point margin of victory over Oregon St. – believe it or not – was one of the “tighter” games all season for the Huskies, down from their 40-point margin of victory.
Luigi “Geno” Auriemma and the UCONN Basketball Team’s dominance in the Women’s game simply put is awe-inspiring. Entering this past weekend’s 2016 Final Four this program had racked up an incredible 73 wins on a string. In fact, the last time UConn tasted defeat was November 17, 2014; an 88-86 overtime loss to Stanford.
And because of these types of “happenings,” Connecticut has received some curious and unwelcomea criticism from some media circles. Last week controversy was stirred when Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy tweeted: “UConn Women beat Miss St. 98-38 in NCAA tourney. Hate to punish them for being great, but they are killing women’s game. Watch? No thanks.”
Such dismissive insights would have you believe that no one cares about this tremendous run in sports history by a women’s college basketball team.
But contraire monfraire – UCONN Women’s Basketball has set a standard so high that it forces some of the staunchest pessimists to take notes, even during the routes.
At 7:54 p.m. during the second half of Sunday’s 80-51 demolishing of Oregon St., one of my Boys Quentin James texted me the following message: “Boy this uconn game has me on the edge of my seat!!!”
By taking time out of his schedule on opening day of the Major League Baseball season it told me that, yes, people are aware of what’s going on; even if it’s not being acknowledged. So even if you’re the typical male sports fan that is quick to discredit, water-down, belittle or take pot shots at the women’s game for whatever reason, you are still paying attention.
(Ironically, the likelihood of that same naysayer’s favorite sports team to even sniff this rarified air of UCONN’s success is next to impossible!)
But you see, that’s what victory by domination does to its detractors. Winning garners and grasps their curiosity and chisels at their reluctance to praise.
Consider this: Breanna Stewart, a three-time AP Player of the Year, has lost a grand total of FIVE games during her illustrious collegiate career. Barring some unforeseen misstep or catastrophic meltdown in Tuesday night’s Championship Game against Syracuse, the upstate New York native will add a fourth straight National Championship to her resume, a feat that can NEVER be surpassed and few could ever match.
No one – I repeat, NO ONE, man man or woman = has accomplished this highlight. “Stewy,” as she is affectionately referred to by Coach Geno, will go down as one of the greatest and most decorated basketball players ever.
Notice I did not say just women’s college basketball.
The current success of the UCONN basketball program has positively impacted a multitude of basketball generations both past and present and on all levels including: recreationally, collegiately, and yes professionally.
UCONN is a basketball powerhouse where almost every detail of its system is planned, committed to memory, choreographed, rehearsed and most importantly carried out on game day. All of which collectively is the formula for their overwhelming winning ways.
The UCONN Women’s Basketball Program is a place where domination is an expectation and not a request. Is it even a question as to why UCONN has a birth-righted invite to the Big Dance on this Final Four grand stage each and every year?
No it’s not a question, when your coach is named Luigi “Geno” Auriemma.