It had been 22 months since Chicago State was able to celebrate a victory until Monday night.
The Cougars beat Wisconsin 71-63 in overtime to win for the first time since Jan. 18, 2020. Chicago State had lost 27 consecutive games before topping the Big Ten school for the first time in eight tries.
“This means everything,” said Chicago State coach Tiffany Sardin, who earned her first victory at the school. “We’ve been scratching and clawing. These young women showed a true testament of never giving up. It’s all about the work. We trust the process to what I believe in and what our women are capable of doing.”
After the final buzzer sounded, the team celebrated like they had just won a championship.
“I wanted them to celebrate,” Sardin said. “I wanted them to take in that experience. They poured water all over me and you had thought we won a title.”
Sardin took over the program on May 15, 2020 and lost all 14 games in her rookie season. The Cougars dropped the final nine games the year before en route to a 1-27 record. Her team lost its first four games this season before Monday’s win.
Coach Sardin said her phone hasn’t stopped buzzing since the victory.
“I’ve been getting texts and calls from great people have been a part of my life and those who I hadn’t talked to for a long time,” she said. “I got some emails and one today was really special. Virginia coach Tony Bennett’s sister Kathi, who recruited me out of high school.”
Sardin returned to her hometown of Chicago after spending three years as an assistant at Longwood. Her new team lost its first four games this season. She grew up about 15 minutes from Chicago State’s campus.
“I’ve been learning a lot about myself during my first opportunity to be a head coach,” she said. “Taking over a program like Chicago State, which was in my backyard, means so much to me. To show that you can have success being home and that it can be done at Chicago State is huge.”
One of her star recruits, freshman Aaliyah Collins, had 25 points in the win. The victory was the first over a Big Ten team since Chicago State topped Northwestern on Nov. 14, 2008.
“Aaliyah Collins is a phenomenal young woman we brought in this season from Seattle,” the coach said. “She happened to be available. We couldn’t go out and recruit in person so everything was just on film, I watched a lot of film and trusted some resources I had. She’s been working out for us. She’s a great hard working young woman we want to build around continue to build her up.”
The Cougars are off to Florida for a Thanksgiving tournament this weekend. It will be a much better trip with the losing streak over.
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25