March 22, 2011
STORRS, Conn. (AP) - Maya Moore ran off the court at Gampel Pavilion one final time, arms raised triumphantly, almost embarrassed as the crowd serenaded her with chants of "Maya, Maya."
"It felt awkward," she said later. "I usually don't like that kind of individual attention because I play a team sport. I appreciate it."
The senior All-American scored 16 points and Connecticut put on a defensive clinic in the second round of the women's NCAA tournament Tuesday night, beating ninth-seeded Purdue 64-40 to advance to the regional semifinals for the 18th consecutive season.
Moore and fellow senior Lorin Dixon became the only players to finsh their UConn careers perfect at home. They went 40-0 at Gampel Pavilion, their on-campus arena, and also went unbeaten at their other home court, the XL Center in Hartford.
The victory was UConn's 22nd straight overall and 83rd in a row at home.
Tiffany Hayes added 23 points to lead the Huskies (33-1), who have the longest active streak of advancing out of the NCAA tournament's second round. They'll face Big East rival Georgetown on Sunday in Philadelphia. Duke will face DePaul in the other semifinal.
"It's something we're really proud of that we've built over a very long time," coach Geno Auriemma said. "These things have a way of kind of building upon themselves. When that's your expectation to be playing next weekend."
Drey Mingo scored nine points to lead Purdue.
Leading 9-7 with 13:47 left in the first half, UConn held the Boilermakers (21-12) to one field goal over the next 13 minutes to extend its advantage to 26-11 on Hayes' free throw.
Usually when the Huskies turn up their defensive pressure, they blow games open with quick runs. This was more of a slow walk, thanks to a strong defensive effort by Purdue.
UConn, which averaged 77.6 points a game, had to scrap for every point. Hayes had eight during the spurt and Hartley added five. Her 3-pointer with 6:15 left in the half made it 21-9. That was the last basket the Huskies would get before the break, but they hit seven free throws down the stretch to give themselves a 15-point halftime lead.
Antionette Howard's layup with 8:26 left in the half was the only basket Purdue would get before Mingo scored with 22 seconds left. Moore's two free throws with a tenth of a second left gave UConn a 28-13 lead at the break. It was the fewest points in a first half ever for the Boilermakers. They had 14 against Ohio State in 1976.
"The defense has always been our staple," Moore said. "It's been the most consistent aspect of our team the last three years, it's been so consistent. We played really good team defense for the most part. It was unbelievable how hard we crashed the boards tonight."
UConn opened the second half with a 19-3 run to put the game away. Hayes had two 3-pointers to start the burst and hit another 3 with 12:51 left to close it, giving UConn a 47-16 lead.
Hayes had outscored Purdue 21-16 at that point.
The Boilermakers could only get within 23 the rest of the game, barely surpassing their previous low-point total of 28 set in that game 35 years ago against the Buckeyes.
Moore's three-point play with 4:57 left moved her into eighth place on the NCAA career scoring list. She passed Valorie Whiteside of Appalachian State, who had 2,944 points.
It's something we're really proud of that we've built over a very long time.
-Coach Geno Auriemma
The Huskies held Purdue to just 26 percent shooting (14 for 54) and outrebounded the Boilermakers 55-30, including grabbing 23 offensive boards.
Moore finished with 13 rebounds and Stefanie Dolson had 10 to go along with 11 points.
"Their defense is a big key to why they are so successful," Purdue coach Sharon Versyp said. "People don't give them as much credit as they need to."
This was the Boilermakers' sixth straight loss to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. They fell to Oklahoma in the regional final in 2009 and didn't make the tournament last season.
The loss ended an inspiring season for the Boilermakers. Mingo went down in November with a life-threatening case of meningitis. Given about a 50-percent chance of survival, she returned to the court just 16 days later.
"We learned about life, and learned about what it really means to be a family which will help us in the offseason and going into next season," Mingo said.
With no seniors on the team, coach Versyp is optimistic about the future.
"We are a young team and have everyone returning," she said. "There's nothing but great things to come from this experience."