March 30, 2010
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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) - The Connecticut Huskies swear they're not perfect. Their last 76 opponents might disagree.
Maya Moore scored 22 points to lead the Huskies past Florida State 90-50 on Tuesday night, sending the defending champions back to the Final Four and stretching their unprecedented win streak to 76 games.
"It's the time of the year when you want to play your best," said Moore, selected as the regional's most outstanding player. "We're on a roll right now. We're confident. That's what you guys are seeing. We still have some things we need to improve. We're not perfect."
Really? Good luck to any opponent if they ever are.
Tina Charles controlled the paint with 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Huskies (37-0), who advance to their eighth Final Four since 2000 where they will meet Baylor in the semifinals Sunday night.
The 40-point victory was the largest margin ever in a regional final.
"Boy, they make you play ugly," Florida State coach Sue Semrau said, shaking her head. "We missed a ton of shots but that's because they did such a great job in every area."
The Huskies are dominating unlike any team ever. No team has come within 12 points of them all season. They have won their first four games of the 2010 NCAA tournament by a record 188 points--a margin of 47 points a game.
Coach Geno Auriemma was humbled by the latest bit of mastery.
"We get on this run and ... I don't know how to explain it," he said, sighing heavily. "We're good, though."
His team's defensive intensity mixed with remarkable talent can turn a close game into a lopsided one quickly.
"I was happy way the first half ended. We were up 14 and we didn't play great and Maya hasn't played at all," Auriemma said. "Then I look up and were up 25, 30. When we start defending you and you start getting a little quick and start losing your composure and the ball starts flying all over the place ... all of a sudden we're up 40 points. You get caught up in this and there's nothing you can do about it."
Jacinta Monroe had 15 points for the Seminoles (29-6), who set a school record for victories while going deeper in the NCAA tournament than any FSU team before.
Kalana Greene added 15 points and Tiffany Hayes had 13 points, seven assists and five rebounds for UConn. The Huskies shot 61 percent in the second half to pull away while limiting the Seminoles to 25 percent.
"They don't like it when people score against us," Auriemma said. "They hate it."
Only two teams have shot even 40 percent in a game against the Huskies this year. Florida State came in shooting a respectable 45 percent; they made just 18 of 63 shots (28.6 percent) against that tenacious, cloying defense of Connecticut's.
Moore had 11 points early then watched from the bench with foul trouble as Charles and her supporting cast stretched the lead.
"My teammates say as long as I do my part, they'll deliver it to me," said Charles who had 16 points and 11 rebounds at the half.
Moore was itching to do some damage after sitting out the last 12 minutes of the half with two fouls. On the opening possession of the second half, the Huskies went to their high-low game, with Charles wheeling to throw a perfect pass to Moore for a three-point play. Greene then stole the ball in the FSU backcourt and fed Moore for a breakaway layup.
After two baskets by the Seminoles, Hayes hit a drive and Moore swished a 25-footer 3. That made it 52-32 and the rout was on.
"They just get it," Semrau said. "Their mentality is so good it's almost second nature."
The University of Dayton Arena crowd's allegiance was almost evenly split between the teams. One underdog-lover did wear a white shirt with red letters that said, "Any 1 But UConn."
Shortly after the final horn, the Huskies also put on white T-shirts that declared they were headed for San Antonio and yet another Final Four.
Surrounding by smiling, laughing players, Auriemma said he was just pleased that his team had made it this far and had played so well.
Despite their overwhelming success, the Huskies take nothing for granted.
"Everyone might have thought it was a foregone conclusion," Auriemma said. "But that's not the way we think. Our approach is one day at a time."