HARTFORD—— The road has run through locales as diverse as Jamaica, N.Y., and Cancun, Mexico, paved by labor, focus and performance.
Where those yellow bricks will end is a mystery. Certainly, the ditch will eventually appear and the UConn women will lose because, well, you can't win them all and the basketball world isn't composed only of Washington Generals.
UConn dumped feisty Notre Dame 59-44 in the Big East semifinals before an announced 9,334 at the XL Center.
The winning streak that began against Georgia Tech on Nov. 16, 2008, fueled by great players, fattened along the way by double-digit margins, has finally reached historic proportion.
But frankly, No.71 wasn't much fun for the nation's top-ranked team.
"This is how I thought the other two games we played against Notre Dame might be," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.
Led by Tina Charles, who had 16 points and 17 rebounds, and Maya Moore, who had 11 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, the Huskies (32-0) broke the NCAA Division I record for consecutive victories set by UConn in 2001-03.
"I can't speak for everyone sitting out there that has a microphone or a pen that's going to ask me about this," Auriemma said, "but I'm sure that 71 doesn't change anything for us."
But more important for a program that values championships more than history, is that 71 springboards UConn to a possible 72, its sixth straight tournament final.
The Huskies will play ninth-ranked and second-seeded West Virginia tonight at 7. The Huskies, who beat the Mountaineers 80-47 for win No. 61 Feb. 2, have already won 15 Big East tournament championships.
"It's going to be another physical battle," Moore said. "You know, at this point, that you are not going to meet a team that doesn't play that way. ... This is the postseason. You know that everyone is going to be coming at you with everything they have. So more than anything, we have to be ready."
Kalana Greene had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Huskies. Notre Dame (27-5) was led by freshman Skylar Diggins, who scored all 10 of her points in the first half.
The win did come at a cost. Sophomore guard Caroline Doty was hit in the head by an inadvertent elbow from Notre Dame's Ashley Barlow in the final minute of the game and might have a concussion. She is listed as questionable for tonight's game.
This third meeting between the teams this season wasn't like the first two, which UConn won by a combined 49 points.
"Because we know we played God awful in those first two games," Diggins said. "[Monday] we played more like ourselves, with a sense of urgency."
UConn didn't get true separation until the first two minutes of the second half when a 7-2 run opened a 32-24 lead.
Moore's three gave Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw reason to call timeout, sensing the deciding run had arrived. McGraw was correct. The Irish were about to be swept away.
"We were just missing shots," Charles said. "Coach told us we're a team that's used to making them and he wanted to see how we would react."
The winning blows were delivered by Greene and Tiffany Hayes. They scored on consecutive athletic efforts in a 30-second span to pump the lead to 42-31 — UConn's first double-digit margin.
This was a solid performance by the Irish, seeded fifth, who advanced with a hard-fought win over St. John's in Sunday's quarterfinals. They moved ahead aware nothing had changed in the week since they last played in South Bend, Ind., when UConn ended the regular season with a 76-51 win.
But the Irish disrupted the Huskies in the first half, especially on defense and in the battle for loose balls.
"We put up a whopping 25 points in the half," Auriemma said. "If I would have told you before the game we'd have 25 at the half everyone would have looked at me and said, 'He's an idiot.'"
But UConn's lead was only 25-22 at the half. Moore was 2-for-7 from three, a drought that symbolized the Huskies' shooting woes (10-for-28) in the first 20 minutes. Greene was 1-for-8.
The 25 points were the fewest scored in the first half by UConn since being limited to 22 by LSU in the Fresno Regional final in 2007, a game the Huskies lost, 73-50.
The Notre Dame defense also limited Charles to four shots in the half, though she had 11 first-half rebounds.
For the Irish, Diggins, who struggled March 1 against UConn at Notre Dame, was scoring and UConn's lead didn't exceed five (19-14) at any point in the first 20 minutes.
"I've said all along that I don't care about the streak," Auriemma said. "It's going to end. I just want it to end the right way."