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UConn women's team: The anti-Cinderella

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published March 26. 2013 4:00AM

Storrs - If nothing else, March Madness trumpets the great unwritten script. One night, one game, one moment, when all the Davids believe in the precision of the slingshot.

And then there are the UConn women, relentless as time's passage, now 20 for their last 20 in their attempts to make the Sweet 16. No madness. No letdowns. No bad nights.

No mercy, either.

For the last 20 years.

The Huskies scored the first 17 points of the second half Monday night and dispatched No. 8 Vanderbilt 77-44 at Gampel Pavilion, before an assemblage of 4,483 friends and relatives. UConn (31-4) advanced to the weekend's Bridgeport Regional and will play fourth-seeded Maryland on Saturday at Webster Bank Arena at noon or 2:30 p.m.

"It's incredible," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said of UConn's 20-for-20.

Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis set the program record for most 3-pointers made in a season (108 and counting), leading Connecticut with 22 points. Freshman Breanna Stewart, absorbing hosannas from Balcomb and her players after the game, had 14 points while Stefanie Dolson had 12 with nine rebounds.

They all contributed to UConn coach Geno Auriemma's reflective, if not upbeat, mood after the game.

"When you have the expectation level we have here, you do get to a point where (making the Sweet 16) is expected," he said. "It's what is expected of the program and of the players. But still, my parents had high expectations for me and I didn't live up to them.

"I don't know that we're doing anything that hasn't been done before," he said. "But to be able to do it, when you look back, it's pretty amazing."

Auriemma found himself awash in the old days recently, thumbing through old statistics.

"I don't know why," he said, "but I wanted to go back and see when we started, when getting a bid was so huge. Then, man, if we win a game that would be unbelievable. Then if we can win a game and go to the regionals, imagine what this will do to our program?

"It shows you how much things have changed," he said. "I think we played 75 games my first four years here that were decided by under 10 points. During the 90-game win streak, I think one game was. I hope I don't ever forget what it felt like back then to hope we even got in, that now I take it for granted we're going to the regionals. I hope I can convey that same level of excitement to my players we used to have 20-something years ago. It's pretty remarkable if you think about it."

Auriemma spent nearly an hour after the game conducting interviews, not far from his locker room. He could see his players re-enter Gampel Pavilion and celebrate the night's accomplishment with friends and family. The games get bigger from here. But there was at least one night of happiness.

"To me going to the Sweet 16 is a big deal, it really is. I was just as tired after this game as any game," he said. "I want it to mean a lot to the players. You can't recreate what we used to have. But I still want it to be enjoyable for them.

"This isn't about me and my staff," he said. "My life is going to change if we go to 22 in a row or if we miss one next year? But for (freshmen) Morgan Tuck, Moriah (Jefferson) and Stewie (Breanna Stewart), this is their first one. That's what gets you energized. You helped them do it the first time."

• The Clark Lane Unified Basketball Team provided the halftime entertainment, drawing several cheers from the crowd. The team was coached by Clark Lane teacher (and Eastern Board Football official) Ken Daniewicz, John Luzzi, an assistant coach on last season's high school championship team and former East Lyme baseball coach Andy Walker.

m.dimauro@theday.com

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