STANFORD, Calif. — For as long as UConn and Stanford play in the regular season, the meetings should serve as a reminder it’s possible for women’s basketball superpowers to get along.
In a world where finding attractive nonconference games grows increasing difficult for UConn, the annual meeting with the Cardinal, renewed for the sixth consecutive season Monday at Maples Pavilion, is a constant the Huskies hope last indefinitely into the future, even after their 47-game winning streak was snapped in overtime, 88-86.
“From what I have heard, it is ongoing,” Geno Auriemma said of the series. “We enjoy it; it benefits both sides. There was a time when we played Stanford and we knew we couldn’t beat them. But we wanted to do it anyway.”
The 47-game streak was the third-longest in UConn program history. The Cardinal also snapped UConn’s NCAA record 90-game winning streak at Stanford on Dec. 30, 2010.
The Cardinal won the first three meetings between Auriemma and Tara VanDerveer from 1988-93, including a 94-75 thumping at Gampel Pavilion on Dec. 28, 1993.
“Then came a time when we knew we were better than them,” Auriemma said. “But we had won 90 in a row and they beat us. It’s good for us, good for women’s basketball and I hope it’s good for them.”
VanDerveer says playing UConn is good for her program, as has been its long-standing rivalry with Tennessee, a team that no longer will play the Huskies.
Only Duke, whose six-year series with UConn renews at the XL Center on Dec. 29, has played UConn frequently in the past. But that series is likely over now, too.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Tara. It seems like there’s a lot of teams right now that are looking for reasons not to play us,” Auriemma said. “And they’re always looking for a reason to stay in the game, to stay in this series.
“These games are important for women’s basketball. I wish some of the other coaches in the country would understand that.”
The Huskies came into Monday’s game on a four-game winning streak against the Cardinal and leading the series, 10-6. Included have been a number of epic matchups; they have met in the Final Four four times since 2008, including the 2010 title game and last year’s semifinal in Nashville, Tenn.
VanDerveer and Auriemma greatly respect each other, which helps make things work.
“Maybe it’s because we’re on the West Coast and it’s hard to fight with somebody 3,000 miles away,” VanDerveer said. “We’re not in the same conference. For the most part, we don’t recruit the same kids. And I respect the job that Geno has done.
“What he does to benefit women’s basketball the most is how he has female assistants and how he really does a great job mentoring them and helping them get out and get jobs.
“Look, you guys [the media] know him, he can get under people’s skin. Either I have a thick skin or I’m just oblivious [to his barbs]. I like Geno, and I basically just say, ‘I’m not fighting with you.’ We get along. I think we respect each other. I don’t look for fights with people. I just feel life is too short; I don’t have that much tread on my tire to be into individual battles.”
After next year’s game at UConn, the Huskies return to Stanford during the 2016-17 season, a trip that will be coupled with their first game at UCLA since 1998.
My only hope is that one day everyone will learn not to be so shocked. This is what we do. #GoStanford
— Nnemkadi Ogwumike (@Nnemkadi30) November 18, 2014