After 998 days, 90 games and an overwhelming amount of hype, The Streak is over. The UConn women have fallen to Stanford tonight, 71-59. It's UConn's first loss since April 4, 2008, when the Huskies lost to these same Cardinal in the Final Four.
I can safely say that this is UConn's worst single game since the 2007 Elite Eight game against LSU, and full credit to Stanford. They did everything they needed to do, played superb defense, got plenty of bounces and calls, and rode a tidal wave of momentum from the moment the game began. They are a championship contender, and they - along with Baylor - have proven that they can derail what was supposed to be a UConn coronation in 2011. It's not quite parity, but the gap between UConn and everyone else is clearly not as wide as suggested.
ESPN announcer Doris Burke spoke glowingly of the "blueprint" to beat UConn, but what blueprint could possibly be deduced from this game?
The Cardinal got off to a brilliant start, a sharpshooter named Jeanette Pohlen had the game of her life, and Maya Moore was contained (by a very, shall we say, physical defense that the referees let go for 40 minutes). The Huskies' other playmakers had nightmarish games. UConn's lack of post depth finally came back to haunt them. Stanford has, in Kayla Pedersen and Nnemkadi Ogwumike, two of the best post players in the country; in Tara VanDerveer, one of the best coaches in the country; and in Maples Pavilion, one of the few truly difficult women's basketball road venues.
As blueprints go, it's not entirely useful. But at least now we know the UConn women are not, in fact, supernatural. They can be beat. Unfortunately for other teams, the UConn women now know that all too well.
The pressure of the streak, the pressure of being the only game that matters in women's basketball - that's gone. Now Geno and the gang can do concentrate on what they do best: play beautiful, precision basketball for 40 minutes. We know what they can do - we've seen it over the past thousand days.
And while this team simply isn't on the same level as the juggernauts of 2009 and 2010, UConn is still a massive favorite to win the national title, and I'm still not certain that any team in America could beat the Huskies in a best-of-7 series on neutral courts.
Geno Auriemma loves to challenge his best players, to annoy the hell out of them and to will them to rise to their potential. Guaranteed that Maya Moore will hear about this game every day for the next four months; how she was tentative, she lacked toughness, how she disappeared at winning time. He will get under her skin, as he has done to Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi and Tina Charles, among others.
The scariest thought for any of the 17 teams remaining on UConn's regular-season schedule? Maya Moore is going to be pissed. Good luck, America.