The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

January 7, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU women hoped to snap UConn streak

MORGANTOWN — When Stanford, which had a nice little week in athletics, beat the University of Connecticut’s seemingly unbeatable basketball team after it had reeled off a record 90 consecutive women’s basketball victories, there were cries of joy from everywhere in the game.

Except right here in Morgantown.

It wasn’t so much that the West Virginia University women’s team was rooting for Connecticut to win.

It was more that the Mountaineers were rooting for them not to lose.

Unbeaten and armed for battle as never before, Mike Carey’s West Virginia team wanted to be the team that made the history, to be known forever more as the team that ended Connecticut’s winning streak.

It had nothing to do with an overgrown ego built off a 15-0 start this season, West Virginia’s best ever. It wasn’t so boastful as to think they were better than UConn.

It was just that the Mountaineers were good, knew they were good, even capable of winning a national championship, and had UConn at home.

Beating the unbeatable was a realistic dream in what they all hope will be a dream season.

“You know,” coach Mike Carey said the other day, “you always want to be the one who has the opportunity to knock them off and end their streak.”

That is, really, what athletics is all about. Normally, the better team wins. In UConn’s case, it well may have been 90 out of 91 times.

But a good team doesn’t walk onto the field or court thinking it can’t win against a great team.

“What went through all our heads was that we would both be undefeated when they came in here and it would be a matchup of unbeaten teams,” senior Liz Repella recalled. “For us to have the chance to beat them on our home court and break that record while they were undefeated was important. We kind of wanted to have that chance.”

Another senior, Sarah Miles, felt the same way.

“We, as a team, we didn’t want them to lose. We wanted the opportunity to end the streak. We weren’t excited that they ended the streak,” she said. “We wanted that moment.”

It was always the 500 pound gorilla in the room that Feb. 8 meeting in the Coliseum with UConn. They would hope, even now, to get the students out and the fans, to turn the Coliseum into a madhouse and to win the biggest game in the school’s history … maybe even men’s or women’s history.

But UConn lost.

“We never talked about that. I’m like the other coaches in the Big East. My goodness, if you look down your schedule, you may not come back out. You can’t look at anything but the next game,” Carey said.

But he knew.

“Our players and our coaches knew, but we didn’t talk to them (about Connecticut). We did want to be undefeated when they came here,” he said.

“We have to take it a game at a time, but Connecticut is always in the back of everyone’s mind. Who doesn’t want to beat them? They went a whole season undefeated. It should be everyone’s goal to beat Connecticut,” Miles said.

While the ladies on this year’s WVU team probably don’t even know about it, WVU owes them one.

Back in 2000, when Alexis Basil was coaching the Mountaineers and having no success, UConn came to town. The game was supposed to have been at the Coliseum but that was closed for asbestos removal, so the game was moved to Morgantown High.

That bothered coach Geno Auriemma, who had the game set for TV, and his attitude wasn’t helped anymore when there was a gas leak in the area of Morgantown High and they threatened to cancel the game or change the time so it would not be on TV.

He did not call off the dogs in a 100-28 victory … and that’s one that has yet to be avenged, WVU having won its first ever meeting with UConn before losing the last 22 in a row.

This year there was real hope that things would be different. This year it would be West Virginia blue that would be remembered, just as Notre Dame’s blue is known for ending John Wooden’s 88-game streak at UCLA.

Streak or no streak, WVU knows it will be facing a spectacular challenge, for if Connecticut has shown anything over the years it has been that it can stand up to the pressure.

“I stand here and the pressure I feel on these girls and we’re only 15-and-0. Can you imagine being 90-and-0? The way they handled that, came out and played hard every game. It’s just unbelievable,” Carey said. “And I’m not going to fool myself. We wouldn’t be 15-0 if we had played the schedule that they played.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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