Senior night to celebrate Moore, Dixon, the best of friends

Storrs - When UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma greets his seniors at center court tonight, what he'll see in Maya Moore and Lorin Dixon are polar opposites.

"She's from New York; I'm from Georgia. I'm tall; she's the shortest one," Moore said recently.

"You have one (Dixon) who's had to struggle and fight and scratch and claw for everything she's gotten," Auriemma said. "And one (Moore) who planted her flag after she got here four years ago and has owned the territory for four years."

But, roommates for four years and with three Final Fours to their credit so far, as well as an NCAA record-setting 90-game winning streak, Moore, the program's all-time leading scorer and about to become a four-time All-American, and Dixon, a speedy reserve who's also quick with a smile, don't have any semblance of a class distinction.

They're UConn's two seniors, have been through everything together - even the time the team bus left Moore behind at a restaurant, Dixon will tell you, giggling feverishly - and are simply friends.

Top-ranked UConn (28-1, 15-0) will end the regular season tonight (7:30, CPTV) in a Big East Conference game against Syracuse (21-7, 9-6) at Gampel Pavilion. Senior night festivities will precede the game. Moore's jersey No. 23 will also be added to the "Huskies of Honor" wall.

"Lorin, she's one of a kind," Moore said of her relationship with Dixon. "She's full of energy. We like to have fun and goof off with each other. She takes care of people she loves. I've appreciated her heart."

Dixon, a 5-foot-4 guard who graduated from Christ the King High School in New York City, has in fact been through her share of struggles in her career. As a freshman, she did not play in the first two games of the NCAA tournament in Bridgeport and was sent back to Storrs on non-game days to concentrate on academics. Last year, she was honored at halftime of a UConn game along with the rest of her teammates who received 3.0 grade-point averages.

Dixon has had the same sort of growth on the court, where she is now the Huskies' valuable sixth man. When UConn led Notre Dame by only eight at halftime recently, Moore reported that Dixon was the one to give the team a pep talk.

"You have to give back to all the seniors that came before you," Dixon said. "Four years I've been here. I've grown as a person."

Auriemma said he can't put his finger on Dixon's transformation; all he knows is it's happened.

"It's funny how it is with seniors," Auriemma said. "They either panic and fall apart because the shouting's over, the cheering's over, or in Lorin's case, this has been the best two weeks of practice since she's been here. I've never seen her practice the way she's practiced. Everything gets done the right way."

Moore, meanwhile, is a 6-0 forward who attended Collins Hill High School in Suwanee, Ga. She is the two-time national player of the year at UConn and was recently named the Academic All-American of the Year for the second straight season. She's won an ESPY Award for best female college athlete. She's been named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

Together, she and Dixon are 142-3 with four Big East regular-season titles, three Big East tournament titles and two national championships.

"You always look back and say, 'I shoulda, coulda, woulda,'" Dixon said of the lack of consistency in her career. "But I'm going to look at what we came in here and did. You guys went to the Final Four every year so far, we went 90-0. That was an amazing run for us."

Fans attending tonight's game are asked to arrive early and be in their seats for the senior night ceremony, which begins at 7:13 p.m. For those watching on CPTV, "A Tribute to the Class of 2011" will air at 6 p.m., followed by the senior night coverage beginning at 7 and the game at 7:30.

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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