Connecticut's Maya Moore celebrates following the Huskie's… (Adam Hunger / Reuters )
Geno Auriemma was in the middle of a thought when a cell phone went off nearby. It was a call he just had to take.
"No, we haven't lost since you've been inaugurated," Auriemma told President Barack Obama, "how about we keep it that way for another couple of years?"
The UConn women's basketball team has put together a winning streak for the ages. With their 93-62 victory over Florida State before 16,294 at the sold-out XL Center Tuesday night, they have won 89 games in a row, surpassing the record set by UCLA men's team between 1971-74.
"It's a great thing for sports," Obama told Auriemma, "it's something to be celebrated."
Celebrate the Huskies did, as they rarely have done during a regular season game. Blue T-shirts commemorating the event were passed out to players and cheerleaders, all of whom lingered at center court for several minutes. Except for the cutting down of the nets, it was much like a championship had been won.
"Like it or not, we made you pay attention," Auriemma said.
Maya Moore scored 41 points for UConn, includuing 26 in the first half, both career highs. Freshman Bria Hartley, who hit seven of their first eight shots from the floor, scored 21 points.
"It takes a group of people who are invested, unselfish," Moore said. "People who are willing to do more than what is required."
The Huskies, who last lost in March 2008, drew little national attention when they broke the record for women's basketball, in 2003 and again, at 72 in a row, last season. As they approach the record of John Wooden's UCLA team, one of the best-known and revered in sports, the attention began to come. Auriemma poured fuel on a national firestorm on Sunday, after the Huskies tied the record, by lamenting that the women's game didn't get respect and he referred to those who follow the men's game as "miserable bastards" who didn't want to see a women's team break a men's record.
"With all these cameras in front of me, nothing I say is going to come out good," Auriemma said. "I'm not going to use any names this time."
It was roughly at that point that Auriemma was interrupted by the call from the White House.
"No," he told the President, "you're not interrupting anything."
The UConn players were excited throughout the day, Auriemma said, as if they couldn't wait to get onto the court and go for the record. Typically, they showed not a hint of jitters, scoring nine points in an 88-second spurt to open a 15-6 lead. They never looked back, never permitted Florida State, the 15th-ranked team in the country, to make any sort of run. UConn hit 60.7 percent of its shots from the floor.
"Competitive greatness, John Wooden used to say, was being at your best when your best was needed," Auriemma said. "That's what Maya Moore is. Maybe that's what Bria Hartley is. That's what Maya has done through the whole 89 games, she has been at her absolute best when that was needed."
Wooden's grandson, Greg Wooden, made the trip from California to "show his support" for the streak. John Wooden, who died at 99 last year, was an admirer of the UConn women's team and their style of play, he said.
Former Husky star Tina Charles, who played in the first 78 games, was also in attendance, along with many former UConn players. "I just think of all the people who came before us," Moore said, "who played a part in building this program into what it is today."
The very relentlessness of the Huskies, who continue to outhustle their opponents long after games are well in hand, is what defines the team and, very likely, made this streak possible.
"People don't see the work in practice or in the weight room," said junior Tiffany Hayes, who has never lost a game in her 2 ÃƒÂ‚Ã…Â“-year career. "What can I say about doing something right 89 times in a row? Well, it can be done. I do know that much."
The Huskies travel to California for two games, one against Pacific on Dec. 28 and Stanford – the last team to beat them – on Dec. 30.