3-25-08 -- Only a freshman, Maya Moore has already done enough for Geno Auriemma to consider her one of the best he’s ever coached.
Inside and out Tuesday night, Moore was too much for Texas.
Connecticut’s fabulous freshman scored 24 points and the Huskies shot a blistering 60 percent from the field to beat Texas 89-55 on Tuesday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The top-seeded Huskies advanced to the Greensboro Regional semifinals on Sunday against Old Dominion.
“For her to have the kind of game and kind of season and do what she’s done, I know other people have anointed her the greatest player in the history of college basketball,” Auriemma said. “It’s hard to beat the two I had, Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. I don’t think I’d trade them for anybody.”
It’s the 15th straight season top-seeded UConn (34-1) has advanced to the regional semifinals. Renee Montgomery added 17 points and Tina Charles had 15 for the Huskies, who routed Cornell 89-47 in the opening round.
Carla Cortijo scored 18 points and Earnesia Williams added 12 to lead the eighth-seeded Longhorns (22-13), who had won six of seven—including a 72-55 win over Minnesota in the first round. The loss was Texas’ worst in the NCAA tournament surpassing a 85-60 defeat to Louisiana Tech in 1984.
Moore was everywhere on the floor, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking three shots.
“It was extremely fun,” said Moore. “We just came out with a type of excitement and the transition running and gunning game that we like to do. I was feeling it and my teammates were finding me, and they went in.”
She hit six of her first seven shots, including four 3-pointers en route to her first 20-point game since scoring 29 against LSU on Feb. 25.
“We just feel she’s going to hit every shot,” Auriemma said. “When she gets a good look and gets her feet set we don’t think she’s going to miss. “
Texas had no answer for her or Connecticut.
“They didn’t have a weakness,” Texas coach Gail Goestenkors said. “They hit the outside shot. They hit the 3s, pull-up jumpers. Their transition game was excellent. They dominated the boards and played great team basketball.”
Goestenkors is one of the rare coaches to have success against Connecticut. She led Duke to a 68-67 win in Hartford on Jan. 3, 2004, ending UConn’s 69-game home winning streak. Then she coached the Blue Devils past the Huskies 63-61 in overtime in the regional finals at Bridgeport in the 2006 NCAA tournament.
It was the only loss by the Huskies in their last 34 NCAA tournament games in Connecticut.
Despite Goestenkors’ recent success against Connecticut, Auriemma wasn’t worried.
“If we play our ‘A’ game, we’re going to win,” said Auriemma on Monday. “I like to be in the situation where, if we lose, it’s because we didn’t play well enough.”
The Huskies certainly were at their best Tuesday night.
Connecticut jumped all over Texas, hitting 12 of its first 17 shots to go up 31-13 in the first 9 minutes. The Huskies were making either layups or 3-pointers in building the early lead.
“The way we started the game in the first 10 minutes set the tone for the evening,” Auriemma said.
Moore hit four 3s during that spurt and had 14 points before the midway point of the first half. The Huskies led 47-30 at the break, shooting 68 percent from the field (21-for-31).
“Maya’s just Maya,” said Connecticut guard Ketia Swanier. “She was running around and getting open a lot. She was hitting open shots, she was herself today.”
Just as in their first round win over Cornell, the Huskies got layup after layup. Connecticut finished with 52 points in the paint.
“Coach just wants us to take it to them and be real aggressive,” said Charles. “On the board he had just to make sure to rebound and get points in the paint and I think we did that tonight.”
Auriemma, not happy with the Huskies’ defensive effort in the first half, got them to clamp down in the second half. Texas scored just six points in the first 10 minutes of the second period as Connecticut put the game away.
The Longhorns were trying to advance to the regional semifinals for the first time since 2004.