And so it ends. It had to eventually. Geno Auriemma's UConn Lady Huskies were defeated by Mississippi State in the semi-finals of the NCAA tournament.
Good-bye 111 game winning streak. Adios to the hopes of adding a fifth national title in a row.
Though it took overtime and MS won on a last second buzzer beater, they earned the right to move on and meet South Carolina for the national title fair and square.
This is a far cry from the last time these two teams met. Just last year UConn had torched MS to the tune of 98-38. A whopping 60 point beatdown.
True, in the interim UConn had graduated their three best players who, BTW, were taken first, second, and third in the WNBA draft. Also true is UConn didn't come into this season as the heavy favorite to win yet another title. But that's the way it goes. Every school loses good players every year as they go on with their lives elsewhere, and the new recruits and underclassmen attempt to take their places.
To Auriemma, his assistant coaches, and the players' credit, they nonetheless marched through the season undefeated up to this point. 36-0 was hardly a record to be sneezed at. By the time they got to the Final Four, they were heavy favorites again. But twas not to be. Down they finally went.
While all due credit should be given to Miss St. for playing tenaciously throughout and prevailing in the end, the thought here is Geno and his Bambinos probably think they pretty much stunk it up, at least by their standards.
Too many missed free-throws. Blown defensive assignments. Offensive rebounds given up for easy put backs to MS. Turnovers galore. Open shots missed. The fact they were able to even get this game to overtime was no small feat, given how poorly they played.
One can certainly speculate that if these same two teams were playing a seven game series, ala NBA style, the Lady Huskies would likely roar back to sweep the next four.
But it doesn't work that way. This was Mississippi State's night to shine, they did, and it's the only game that mattered.
And hey, no sad tears for Geno and his Bambinos. They hadn't been defeated in almost three years. Plus the last four national titles in a row remains quite impressive. It just wasn't meant to be this year.
No doubt, Geno and UConn will reload and be back next year with another formidable team. They're not going away any year soon, by any stretch of the imagination.
Idle thought: Besides the obvious pain of the loss, a game UConn players no doubt think they should have won, know what the hardest thing for them might be in the near future?
Facing the alumni of the teams that won the last four titles in a row. What can the current players do other than hang their heads in shame for coming up short?
Right or wrong, the typical standard of excellence doesn't seem to apply to the UConn Lady Huskies anymore. Anything short of perfection is deemed a miserable failure. Tough job, but they knew that going in.
Yet they'll get over it.
Also interesting how both the men's and women's teams from South Carolina remain alive in the tournament. The women have already moved on to the final. If the men can get past Gonzaga in the semis, no small task, well, who knows? Hey, if the mighty Lady Huskies can go down, who's to say the also mighty Tar Heels of North Carolina can't be toppled? That's if THEY get by upset-minded Oregon in the semis.
The plot continues to thicken.
We'll all know how it works out in the next few days.
The best part of it all?
As soon as the college hoop mania is over, sports junkies like yours truly can turn right around and tune into the Master's golf tournament, due to start next Thursday.
Oh yeah, keep bringing it on.