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Streak ends, but not before women’s bball captivates fans, public, broadcasters

December 31, 2010 – 4:17 PM

Phew. The streak is over.

Sometimes when you lose, you win. And whether UConn’s streak ended last night or next month – or next year, matters less than how it ended and what it has shown us.

The truth is that while UConn’s 90-game win streak is a powerful accomplishment, once you eclipse Wooden’s UCLA record, another win is just another win.

More critical is that Stanford’s 71-59 victory was a worthy finish. That’’s because despite Coach Geno Auriemma’s contention that it was “easy” to beat UConn, Stanford Coach Tara VanDerveer’s win was not dumb luck, but the spoils of a well-conceived game strategy.

They planned. They studied. They executed. There were no open looks for the great Maya Moore, who was double-teamed, hassled, and held to just 14 points. The Cardinal focused and created opportunities, none more than #23 Jeanette Pohlen who finished the night with 31 points.

So what has UConn’s winning streak demonstrated?

1.  Women’s college basketball is good entertainment – and people are getting that. Stanford players (and Moore) credited a rocking crowd (attendance was 7,329) as a factor. UConn’s win #90 over Pacific drew a sell-out crowd of 6,150 at the Spanos Center. Win #88 at Madison Square Garden (part of the Maggie Dixon Classic) drew the second largest crowd ever – 15,232 — to the garden for women’s basketball. Skilled, dynamic play is worth watching, regardless of whether men or women are wearing the uniform.

2.  We are in a NEW ERA of women’s basketball. We haven’t heard much about a lack of “parity” – the old phrase for the field in the UConn-Tennessee years – because it’s no longer about two programs grabbing all the talent. There are more good female basketball players than a decade ago (yes, there should be even more if urban girls had the same support as their male peers, but that’s another post). There are a few – like Baylor’s Brittany Griner – who have the ability to push the game to a new level. YET — Today the limiting factor is NOT just the talent pool of athletes and coaches’ ability to recruit, but the impact of how a coaching staff trains and prepares athletes to perform. The UConn-Stanford matchup showcased the heightened level of sophistication in the women’s game.

3.  Women CAN and should lead SportsCenter. Coverage of the UConn streak – and those highlights of Moore’s acrobatic drives to the basket – makes strong broadcast material. (Plus she’s crazy thoughtful in press conferences!) Just because the streak has ended doesn’t mean its time to turn off the cameras. UConn has shown that strong on-court women’s play makes worthy viewing.

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