It was a fitting song for an amazing day. The UConn Huskies gathered at center court. Put on T-shirts commemorating the longest streak in Division I basketball history and screamed out the lyrics to the rap song, ‘All I Do Is Win’ complete with hand motions.
The smiles were broader than they ever were this entire season. They had just completed a moment of a lifetime. A moment that started before any of us laid eyes on them.
"It can be done," junior Tiffany Hayes said. "But there is a lot of hard work that goes into it. Off the court, on the court, when no one sees you working. In the off season, lifting weights. It all leads to this moment. I’m just glad to be a part of it."
A part of it, she was, as her team has not lost with her in the lineup. So the moment belonged to her. A moment so amazingly grand but still incomplete.
Eighty-nine wins in a row is a remarkable feat. A feat that isn’t remotely close to their final goal. The Huskies did show that in the grandest of moments they will rise to the occasion.
Going into the game, there was the potential for UConn to disappoint. To be so overwhelmed with the sellout crowd of 16,294 that they perhaps could crumble under the pressure of their own success. To be so besieged with wanting to succeed that they stumble over their feet.There was so much hype, press and discussion heading into this game, Lebron James and Brett Favre were getting jealous.
But unlike the Fab 3 in Miami and Favre’s entire season, the Huskies did not disappoint.
UConn’s UConn. Maya’s Maya. And the UConn Huskies are 89-0 the last 89 times they threw the ball up and 99-1, during their last 100.
UConn was zoned in from the tip. However, Maya Moore was astounding from birth.
She has the ability to make the casual observer stop in his tracks and take notice. So when someone like Florida State’s coach Sue Semrau watches she understands the greatness of her game.
"She is as tough as nails," Semrau said. "She just reminds me of Kobe Bryant. What player in our game stops and pops like she does? I watched her right in front of my bench, she catches it and we closed out on her and she went in a direction that I couldn't even believe she could stop herself and go. She pulled straight up on a dime. She reads things before they happen and that makes her so special. She knows what she wants to do before she catches the ball and not a lot of players do that."
Maya Moore was every bit of the star who has gone 125-2 during her career. Her team was every bit of the supporting actresses as they have been for 89 consecutive nights.
UConn has gotten everything they deserved from television specials to senate declarations to presidential phone calls. It couldn’t happen to a group of nicer kids, who work harder than anyone in the game.
"It takes a group of people who are highly invested, unselfish and who do more than what is required," Maya Moore stated. "Do more than just work together on the court. We are a group of people who are constantly around each other and look out for each other and care about each other off the court."
"This is a family and that is how we treat it. We hold each other accountable. We will confront each other when we need to be confronted. We will argue, just like sisters do and we will go to war for each other, just like sisters do."
If the UConn women’s team is sisters then they have a proud papa right now.
Geno Auriemma had a twinkle in his eye the entire press conference. You can tell how much he cares for and respects his players and what they do every day for him.
"They commit to something," Auriemma said. "They committed to playing hard and playing together. It's something, that they're relentless. They just don't settle for 'whatever.' There was some bad stuff going on [at the beginning of the 2nd half] and at that point it wasn't about winning number 89. There were a lot of upset players and we are up 20. That's how they are and that's how we are. I am thrilled to death that I have that culture at Connecticut."
"You have to admire it. I do. When Bria Hartley was knocking down shots and playing like she was here for 3 years I was like, 'Man, I didn't know she could do that.' It was enjoyable for me to watch. That's what I get a kick out of. No one has been more vilified by me than Heather Buck about what she can't do. But for her to go out there and play tonight and have fun. That's what I have fun with."
Auriemma was so impressed with how freshman guard,Hartley was playing, he took the time out of a time out to give her a hug and kiss. He was quoted as saying, "She is so unaffected by all of this, by the big moments. I just love kids like that. I wanted to show her how big she was playing. How important she is."
Those words and sentiments meant a lot to his young guard.
"He's Italian, what can I say," Hartley said. It was great. As a freshman, developing that relationship has been important. It's good to see he has that confidence in me. It definitely picks me up and I'm glad he has that confidence in me and I can build on it for the next game. You can understand what he was saying to me without any words. "
There was no talk of "beating" UCLA or one upping anything the Bruins did. To these young ladies it was all about them. How hard they worked. What they had achieved. What they were most proud of.
"It depends on what you value," Moore said. "We value the intangibles. It's easier to understand the value of what we do if you just come watch us practice. Just hang around us for a little while. Get to see what it's like just being a college athlete. Being 18-21, that's enough stress in itself. Just to put all that aside, everyday, to come to practice and work as hard as we do. To focus as much as we do, to be aware and pay attention and to put that much emotional energy and effort into everything is remarkable. The more attention that we can get, hopefully the more people can see that and will come to appreciate how we play together, how we play unselfish, how excited we get for each other. How quick we pick each other up after getting knocked [down]. If you value those things, then there's no debate."
I don’t care about the history. I don’t care if Maya Moore couldn’t get a shot off against Bill Walton. This is what you should care about. A young lady, like Moore, who has her priorities in order. A coach who respects and loves his team so much that he will put away his tough guy demeanor to show them how special they are. A team who took everyone’s best shot for 89 times and still came out smiling on the other side.
Their quest is for an 8th National Championship. Their quest is for a 3-Peat. Their quest is summed up in one line from their favorite song, ‘Just win, baby win.’