U Conn. Women's Basketball Team Makes History

Monday night brought a historic win for the University of Connecticut's women’s basketball team. With the guidance of Coach Geno Auriemma, the Huskies shattered their own record for most-consecutive wins in women's college basketball with their 71st team victory. Host Michel Martin talks basketball with Tandalaya Wilder, who heads "She Got Game," a Miami-based public relations and radio production company.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Just ahead, allegations of serial sexual abuse by a pediatrician leaves dozens of Delaware parents wondering what they could have done to protect their children. We'll talk with a pediatrician and two of our regular parenting contributors about helping their children - your children, our children - stay safe from predators, even when it's a trusted professional like a doctor. That's in just a few minutes.

But first, on a happier note, last night an historic win for the ladies of the University of Connecticut basketball team. With the guidance of head Coach Geno Auriemma (technical difficulties) shattered their own record for most consecutive wins in women's college basketball when last night, they won their 71st game. They soundly defeated Notre Dame by a final score of 59 to 44, this after one of their players, sophomore Caroline Doty, took a fall just a minute before the end of the game.

(Soundbite of cheering)

Unidentified Man: UConn one minute away from 71 straight wins, (technical difficulties). Now Geno is livid that there was no foul...

MARTIN: The Huskies first had a 70-game streak back in 2001. In addition to toppling that streak, this time around, the team has dominated its opponents by winning each game by double-digit figures. They are the team to beat, and we wanted to know more about this historic victory and the Huskies dynasty in women's basketball, so we called Tandalaya Wilder, who heads She Got Game, a Miami-based PR and radio production company. And she's with us from Miami. Welcome. Thanks for joining us.

Ms. TANDALAYA WILDER (She Got Game): Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: So, is your heart rate back down?

Ms. WILDER: Oh, barely, barely.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: You know, they - Notre Dame was within 10 points of UConn with less than four minutes to go. Now, a margin like that almost qualifies as a win when playing against the Huskies. So how did the Huskies pull it off?

Ms. WILDER: Well, you know what? This is a team that knows how to win. I mean -and they're used to winning. The Huskies are the goliaths of women's college basketball right now. I mean, you know, if you look at them, they are big, intimidating, unbeaten. I think they actually psych most teams out before they even hit the court. And, you know, as we heard, they've got excellent leadership in Coach Geno Auriemma. They've got the two best players in the nation, Maya Moore, who's an explosive dunker, and Tina Charles, a virtual scoring machine, and a supporting cast that, frankly, Michel, would have most college coaches in the league salivating.

MARTIN: But why is that, though? What explains this dominance year after year? Is it aggressive recruitment? Is it - what is it?

Ms. WILDER: It is. It's all of that. And, you know, the top players want to play for Geno Auriemma. You know, the team is very disciplined. You know, they just have an incredible record. They're a dynasty within themselves. And, you know, who wouldn't want to be there? Who wouldn't want to play college basketball on that level? And frankly, you could take that entire team right now and they could probably be a WNBA team. That's how good they are.

MARTIN: And, as I understand it, though, that they're focusing more on the Big East Championship game tonight against 9th-ranked West Virginia - at least that's what they say. They say that they're more focused on tonight's game than they are about on the streak.

Ms. WILDER: No, they are.

MARTIN: Do you believe that?

Ms. WILDER: Yeah. That's what makes UConn so great, because they're so disciplined. They're like that. They're very tunnel-vision in their focus. They don't go and celebrate after these victories, you know. They celebrate in the locker room and that kind of thing, but Coach Auriemma has them very, very focused, and it's all about winning the big thing, you know, winning the championship, winning the Big East Tournament. It's not just necessarily about the streaks. It's great to have, but that's how they end up being so unbeatable.

MARTIN: Do you think that they are setting a standard for women's basketball, or just - people just assume it's too generous(ph)? And I guess - I think I'm more interested in the question of whether this kind of thing gives - brings more respect to the women's game.

Ms. WILDER: Well, you know, it's kind of debatable, because some people say UConn's dominance is a double-edge sword. One the one hand, to see one team do so well and roll over opponents, you know, night after night, game after game is fun to watch. And it's good for the game because people want to see just how good they really are. On the other hand, when one team takes over like this, it makes you wonder about the overall quality of play within the league. You know, do these other teams really need to raise a level of their game? And do we really want to see one team crushing opponents after opponent every time with double-digit wins?

I say no streak lasts forever. UConn's dominance right now is good. They've raised the bar, and other teams have to figure out what they need to do to beat them: better recruiting, more analysis, be more hungry, whatever. And I don't see it any different than Tiger Woods' dominance on the golf course or the Yankees' dominance in baseball. But I do think, Michel, what would make this more entertaining is a major rivalry, and at one time we did have that with Tennessee. And if you remember, Tennessee in the past under the tutelage of the great Pat Summitt, went undefeated as well.

MARTIN: Sure. And finally in the minute and a half we have left I did want to ask you about another sort of controversy in women's basketball and that's famous punch thrown last week by a player at Baylor, when Baylor was playing Texas Tech and the player in that case was suspended not just for one game, it was extended but for two by her own coach. I wanted to ask you about that incident. I mean, a lot of people have sparked - it's sparked some discussion about whether, you know, the women are now acting like the guys and sort of bringing this level of intensity to the court. And other people are saying, well, why wouldn't you expect that in a hard fought game? What's your take on this?

Ms. WILDER: Well, I think it's much ado about nothing. I mean, I think it's an isolated incident, you know, there is no question about it. The league is a lot more competitive now. You know, the stakes are higher. You know, but, you know, for the most part it's been a great positive league, and the women have conducted themselves in a positive manner. So, you know, I think it's an isolated incident.

MARTIN: You think, it's gotten too much attention, not enough attention, should get more attention. It's front page news in sports pages which women's basketball rarely is.

Ms. WILDER: Right, right, exactly. So there's that draw because now more people are interested, you know, but in not a good way. So, I just, again, I think it's much ado about nothing. I think, we need to focus on things like this: UConn's dominance, 70 straight wins and, you know, people raising the bar, you know, and watching these great talented women do what they do. They got game.

MARTIN: Yes, ma'am, I heard the scolding there. I heard the scolding, I hear you. Yes, ma'am. Excuse me. Just asking. Tandaleya Wilder heads She Got Game, a Miami-based PR and radio production company, and she joined us from Miami. Tandaleya, thank you.

Ms. WILDER: Thank you, Michel.

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