Moore scores 28 as Huskies blitz Duke to reach 12th Final Four
Philadelphia - First, UConn was on the national stage this season, all eyes on the Huskies as they won their 90th straight game, insinuating themselves into the realm of TV and radio sports talk, newspapers, blogs and dinner conversations.
Then the UConn women's basketball team lost to Stanford in December, a player transferred, one got hurt and the Huskies were down to eight players, six of whom made it onto the floor in the Big East tournament championship game just a few weeks ago.
But that certainly wasn't all she wrote for the two-time defending national champion.
UConn made the headlines again Tuesday night at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University, drilling Duke 75-40 in the Philadelphia Regional final to reach its fourth straight Final Four.
"Sometimes, you just have a group of players that you're coaching that everything falls into place, somehow, some way," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the victory.
"It feels better," freshman center Stefanie Dolson said. "Better than I thought."
Top-seeded UConn (36-1), which was facing No. 2 Duke for the second time this season, will play Big East foe Notre Dame in the national semifinals next Sunday in Indianapolis. The Huskies earned a Final Four berth for the 12th time in program history and are looking for their eighth national championship, which would tie them with Tennessee for the most titles all-time.
Maya Moore, named an Associated Press All-American for the fourth time earlier in the day, finished with 28 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals, being named the regional's Most Outstanding Player. She was joined on the all-tournament team by UConn's Lorin Dixon and Bria Hartley, as well as Duke's Jasmine Thomas and Karima Christmas.
Moore also became the seventh player in Division I women's basketball history to reach the 3,000-point mark, hitting a jump shot with 3 minutes, 44 seconds remaining and igniting the crowd of 4,319 fans, nearly all of whom rose to their feet to mark the occasion.
UConn beat Duke in a regular-season matchup at Gampel Pavilion by a score of 87-51 on Jan. 31, with Moore scoring 29. Prior to that game Duke was unbeaten and ranked third in the nation.
This game started at a slower pace, with UConn leading just 23-20 with 3:37 to go before halftime.
Actually, it was too quick a pace, with the Huskies rushing their game to get to Indianapolis.
"You're like a little kid going to the shore," said Auriemma, who grew up in Philadelphia and is now undefeated in his home city at 6-0, also winning the 2000 national title here. "As soon as you get on the parkway, you start jumping up and down in the back seat."
UConn hit the last seven points before halftime, though, including a shot by Moore at the buzzer. Moore got the ball with about three seconds remaining in the right corner, but stayed calm, took one step past her defender and fired to push the lead to 30-20.
The second half is when the Huskies went full throttle toward Indy.
They outscored Duke 22-3 to start the half, with the Blue Devils (32-4) being held without a field goal for 8:18 until Richa Jackson scored off a UConn turnover with 9:59 to go. By the time the game ended, UConn won by nearly as many points as it did the first time it met Duke.
"This was not a good game for us today," Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie said. "I think the difference was obviously their speed and we didn't come out like we needed to come out. Frankly, offensively we were just horrible."
"To do it in the manner they did it and to beat a really, really, really good team, there's something special about this group and what they were able to persevere through," Auriemma said.
Hartley finished with 14 points, six rebounds and six assists for UConn and Dolson had 12 points and six rebounds. Tiffany Hayes added 11 points and five assists and Kelly Faris, going back to her native Indiana for the Final Four, six points, eight rebounds and six assists.
At at Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Stanford (33-2) vs. Texas A&M (31-5), 7 p.m. (ESPN)
UConn (36-1) vs. Notre Dame (30-7), 9:30 p.m. (ESPN)
Tuesday, April 5
Semifinal winners, TBA (ESPN)