March 7, 2011
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Coming off one of the worst offensive games of her stellar career, Maya Moore wasn't about to let it happen twice in a row.
Moore scored 22 points and Kelly Faris added 19 to lead top-ranked Connecticut to a 75-51 win over Rutgers on Monday night in the semifinals of the Big East tournament.
"It definitely bothered me," Moore said. "Not just the stats, but the way I played and the way our team played bothers me greatly. I tried not to make it for nothing and am glad we responded the way we did."
UConn (31-1) has won 19 straight games since losing to Stanford on Dec. 30 to snap the Huskies' record 90-game winning streak. It will be the 21st time in the past 23 seasons that they are in the championship game.
Coming off one of the worst offensive games of her career, Moore took only four minutes to eclipse the season-low six points she had against Georgetown.
Rutgers (19-12) had no answer for the three-time All-American. She helped break open a tight game, hitting two 3-pointers during an 11-0 run.
"I wanted to run hard and establish our inside game," Moore said. "That opens up things on the perimieter and gets me to the free throw line and gets me in a rhythm."
The Huskies will play third seed Notre Dame in the championship Tuesday night, in a rematch of the famous 2001 title game that saw UConn win on a buzzer-beater by Sue Bird.
UConn is trying to win its fourth straight Big East tournament championship and 17th overall. It was the Huskies' 80th consecutive victory at home and 68th straight conference win.
Their last loss in the conference was at Rutgers on Feb. 5, 2008. The Scarlet Knights also handed Connecticut its last home loss in the championship game of the 2007 Big East tournament.
Rutgers wasn't able to mount much of a challenge on Monday night because of Moore.
With Connecticut leading 18-14 midway through the first half, Moore sparked an 11-0 run to help UConn take control of the game. Moore started the spurt with a 3-pointer and then hit another after Faris had her own 3.
Moore capped off the burst with two free throws to make it 29-14. She had outscored Rutgers 15-14 at that point.
When she wasn't scoring, she was passing to open teammates for baskets. With 5 seconds left in the half, Moore took the ball from the top of the key and passed to a wide-open Bria Hartley for a 3-pointer as the halftime buzzer sounded. The Huskies led 39-20 at the break.
"When Maya's making shots invariably she's doing 15 other things on the floor," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "You feel like you're being overwhelmed by her. It's a 3, a jump shot, a post up. It looks like there are three or four of her out there."
Unlike in the Georgetown game on Sunday when the Huskies let a 20-point halftime lead slip to 11, they wouldn't allow the Scarlet Knights to rally.
The Scarlet Knights got within 16 on Erica Wheeler's 3-pointer 2 minutes into the second half. UConn promptly answered with 14 of the next 16 points highlighted by a full-court pass from Faris to Moore for a layup and a three-point play by the senior that made it 54-27.
Rutgers didn't get within 19 after that.
"Big time players show up in big time games," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "We didn't deserve to be on the same floor playing with someone like Connecticut."
Wheeler finished with 17 points to lead the Scarlet Knights.
"It's always tough when you get knocked down, us being a young team we don't understand what it takes to get up and fight," Rutgers forward April Sykes said. "We showed we weren't ready to face someone like UConn tonight. When you're not scoring on offense and giving things on defense you're never going to win."
About the only thing that went wrong for Moore was that she got hit in the face on a 3-pointer in the first half. She sported a bandage on her chin for the second half.
"It's just a little boo-boo," Moore said.
She left the game with over 9 minutes left to a loud ovation.
The Scarlet Knights had won five in a row, including a 68-62 win over Marquette in the quarterfinals. The Scarlet Knights earned the No. 4 seed in the conference and a double bye. Their late season surge that included victories over West Virginia, Syracuse and the Golden Eagles will likely have them in the NCAA tournament for the ninth straight season.