Almost two years to the day that Stanford ended UConn’s record 90-game winning streak at Maples Pavilion, the Lady Huskies returned the favor.
Behind Stefanie Dolson’s smothering defense on the Cardinal’s star Chiney Ogwumike, No. 2 UConn trounced top-ranked Stanford 61-35 before an ESPNU audience (ESPN aired the Armed Forces Bowl matchup of Rice-Air Force, while ESPN2 televised the Pinstripe Bowl featuring Syracuse routing West Virginia from a snowy Yankee Stadium) on Dec. 29, ending the home team’s 82-game run at Maples. It also undermined any chance that Tara VanDerveer’s squad would approach Geno Auriemma club’s 99-game home skein that concluded last Feb. 18 at the hands of St. John’s, 57-56.
More importantly, the convincing win served notice that Auriemma’s team, bolstered by mobile 6’5” freshman Breanna Stewart, will be taking dead aim at an eighth national championship.
That’s good news for SNY president Steve Raab and other execs at the Mets’ net, which now could be home to the No. 1 women's basketball team during the bulk of the first of its four-year rights deal—provided UConn takes care of business at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs against No. 5 Notre Dame, come Jan. 5 on CBS. Past its Big East schedule, the Lady Huskies will certainly be tested on Feb. 18 at XL Center in Hartford by Britney Griner and defending champion Baylor, with the marquee matchup televised on ESPN2. The Cardinal topped the Lady Bears on Nov. 16, avenging a loss in last year’s national semifinals.
If UConn can skirt those potential pitfalls, SNY will be able to chronicle most of what could be an undefeated NCAA title quest before the Big East tourney begins.