Streaks on the line as Stanford takes on UConn

Streaks on the line as Stanford takes on UConn
December 30, 2010, 12:58 am
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Dec. 29, 2010UCONN (12-0) vs.STANFORD (8-2)STANFORD (AP) -- Top-ranked Connecticut owns the 90-game winning streak that started after a loss to Stanford in the 2008 NCAA semifinals. The Cardinal have their own impressive streak: 51 consecutive victories on their home floor in Maples Pavilion.On Thursday night, one of these long runs will go down. The nationally televised game that has been circled on so many calendars for months is finally here a rematch of last season's NCAA championship game between the top programs from each coast.Can Stanford (8-2) stop do-everything UConn star Maya Moore and Co. after coming so close in a 53-47 title game loss last April?REWIND: VanDerveer gets win No. 800The Huskies (12-0) are short-handed after key reserve guard Lorin Dixon sprained the top of her left foot coming down on a teammate's foot in practice Monday.Coach Geno Auriemma doesn't sound too confident that UConn will be able to match up so well this time with Stanford's athletic inside trio of Nnemkadi Ogwumike, Kayla Pedersen and Ogwumike's talented freshman sister, Chiney."The question for us probably will continue to be what can we get out of our post players?" Auriemma said after an 85-42 warmup rout of Pacific on Tuesday night in nearby Stockton.That was the Huskies' first game since they topped the 88-game winning streak set by John Wooden's UCLA men's team from 1971-74 by beating No. 22 Florida State 93-62 on Dec. 21."(Without Dixon) it's going to be a huge problem because we can't get bigger," Auriemma said. "It's going to be very difficult for us to match up with them. We'll go in and we'll play and we'll see what happens."RELATED: Womens basketball page ScoreboardAuriemma knows his nine healthy players will be ready for the raucous crowd at sold-out, 7,329-seat Maples, where UConn will play for the first time since Dec. 28, 1993 a 94-75 Stanford win.Stanford already has played a brutal nonconference schedule this month, traveling to DePaul and Tennessee the Cardinal's two losses and beating No. 4 Xavier in a surprising 89-52 blowout Tuesday."Games like the one coming up are pretty easy to get up for," Moore said. "What better situation could a team want? A hostile environment, Stanford plays really well at home. They're ready to go. We're ready to go. It's going to be a battle. But that's exactly the kind of game what we want."So do the Cardinal, whose lone blemishes in a 36-2 run last season came at the hands of Connecticut."I felt like we really missed an opportunity," coach Tara VanDerveer said earlier this season of the championship loss.She said it fueled her to be a better coach and work harder, and did the same for her players. Most everybody, even the incoming freshmen, spent the summer together on campus training and playing pickup games."Our team will be focused. They will be ready. I know they will have a great effort and we will learn more about our team," VanDerveer said. "This is why we play these games, to really let us know where we're at. I tell our team, 'This is like the NCAA tournament.'"Moore, averaging 24.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.83 assists, can only imagine what this game means to her opponent not to mention the Huskies.STATS: Stanford UConn"It's super important. As a competitor you never want to lose," she said. "Putting myself in their shoes, you've got a good team, a team that you've met a lot, in championship games. It's going to be very loud. It's very important, especially on your home court, you've got the crowd behind you, you want to have a good game for your fans. It's going to be an intense atmosphere."Stanford, coming off its third straight trip to the Final Four, has been national runner-up in two of the last three years and hasn't won it all since 1992. The Cardinal lost to the two-time defending champion Huskies in the 2009 Final Four.VanDerveer, in her 25th season on The Farm, became the sixth women's coach to reach the 800 win mark last week. Stanford, going for its 11th straight Pac-10 Conference crown, is 2-0 against UConn at Maples. This marks the sixth meeting between the schools in three-plus seasons.The Cardinal haven't lost at home since a 68-61 upset by Florida State in the second round of the NCAA tournament in March 2007."We really just want to go out there, protect our home court, give people a good game, get the 'W' and show how much we're improving and show the country what we can do, too," senior guard Jeanette Pohlen said.