The UConn women are one of those teams you need to see in person before it is too late. My second opportunity came in 2002 while travelling with the Iowa women's team to the NCAA Tournament. The first round game for the Hawkeyes was against Virginia, with the winner playing Connecticut. This Huskie squad established the original record for consecutive wins at 70. That team was made of Swin Cash, Sue Bird, and Diana Taurasi, each future WNBA players. The associated picture (courtesy Karen Daubs) is from the Huskeis First Round win against St. Francis. It was the second game of the day at Gampel Pavillion as the Iowa - Virginia was first.
Hosting early round NCAA games is nothing new to the people of Connecticut. Whether it is on-campus at Gampel Pavillion or in Hartford, the fans of the Husky women's team are accustomed to watching their team play for the first two rounds. But what makes this small arena in this rural college town is the support the fans have for their team. During a tv timeout in the Iowa - Virginia game, the Huskie basketball team walked from their seats inside the arena to their locker room as one. The home town crowd roared as each Husky basketball players walked by.
And with success comes a little bit of arrogance. In this case it is justified. Prior to the Monday night second round game with the Hawkeyes, local fans were already making reservations for the regionals to be held in Milwaukee. Iowa fans took it as disrespect, but it shouldn't, it was reality for the UConn fans. Not only was this one of the best Huskie women's team in school's history, but Huskie fans knew Auriemma would allow the Big Ten team, an eight seed, upsetting this perennial power on its home court.
On this stormy Monday night, the Hawkeyes played the role of the "little engine that could" for the first half, but UConn's athleticism took over. While the Huskies fought to put the lead at fourteen heading into the half, they outscored the Hawkeyes 40-16 in the second half. Truly a display of greatness. The game was over quickly, and the UConn team and fans had already set their sights on the regional with Penn State. So quick that the Gampel Pavillion facility staff began tearing down the second-round site before the media had put the story to rest, including the Iowa Radio Network who were stlil on the air as their broacasting location was being taken apart.
Most likely this year's edition of the Connecticut basketball team will take home another title. A program of this magnitude will not be replicated, and they play the game better than anyone else.