Moore scores 25 to lead UConn to 75th straight win
DAYTON, Ohio (AP) – Maya Moore made a 3-pointer from the top of the key for Connecticut’s first basket. Then she hit one from the left corner. Just like that, another Huskies rout was on.
Moore scored 16 of her 25 points in the opening 9 minutes and seemingly invincible UConn took it from there to roll over Iowa State 74-36 in a regional semifinal Sunday.
“Connecticut is certainly as good as advertised,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said. “I don’t think I’ve had a whipping like that since I was a little kid and I broke something of my mom’s.”
Kelly Faris came off the bench for 16 points and Tina Charles also had 16 for the Huskies (36-0), who extended their unprecedented winning streak to 75 in a row.
The Huskies have won their first three games in the tournament by a combined 148 points – the most ever. UConn easily surpassed the previous mark of 131 it set in 2000 and 2001.
A frequently overlooked strength of the Huskies – team defense – was evident. Iowa State came in shooting 43 percent from the field but made just 15 of 53 shots for 28 percent. The Cyclones, one the nation’s pre-eminent 3-point-shooting teams, were rattled into going just 6 of 25 behind the arc, with most of the damage they did do behind the arc coming after the game was all but over.
“I know it sounds like a broken record from me, but going into today’s game I wasn’t really sure how we were going to keep them from making a bunch of 3s,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I can’t tell you how well this group played defensively, how they locked into the scouting report and how well they prepared. They just played exceptionally well defensively.”
Anna Prins scored 10 points for Iowa State (25-8), which fell far short of duplicating the biggest win in program history. The Cyclones had stunned top-seeded UConn 64-58 in the regional semis in 1999.
Not this time. The outcome was never in doubt after Moore hit her first four 3-pointers. She’s hit 12 of her 17 3-pointers so far this tournament.
“(The Huskies) are the best team I think I’ve seen,” said Iowa State star guard Alison Lacey, who had nine points, seven under her average.
Connecticut advances to its fifth straight regional championship game and 10th in 11 years. The Huskies will meet the winner of third-seeded Florida State and seventh-seeded Mississippi State. The Huskies played at Florida State on Dec. 28 and raced to a 78-59 win over the Seminoles.
Like many of the 74 before it, the latest UConn win was decided early.
The first time Moore touched the ball on offense she hit a 3 from the top of the key. The second time, she hit a 3 from the left corner. And the rout was on.
“It’s critical for us to get off to a good start,” Moore said. “We always want to be the team to score first. We always want to find our shooters. Coach always says the moment you see daylight and you’re open, knock it down.”
She made all four attempts behind the arc in the opening 8:45 as the Huskies took a 22-10 lead – and then she went out for the rest of the half. The lead was in safe hands, with Faris scoring eight points and generally being a pest at both ends of the court. Moore didn’t play in the final 10:36 of the half but still outscored the Cyclones 16-14 by the break.
The Huskies even pulled away with one of their biggest stars resting on the bench. Moore’s 3-pointer at the 11:15 mark touched off an 18-2 run with Faris and Charles each scoring six points.
Ten seconds into the second half, Moore hit a 15-foot baseline jumper. By the time she left the game for good with more than 9 minutes left, she had 25 points to Iowa State’s 21. It wasn’t until just 5:55 remained before the Cyclones in 34 minutes scored more points than Moore did in 25.
“You don’t have to convince any of us guards to shoot the 3 ball when we get a wide-open look,” Moore said with a smile.
The Huskies also shut down the Cyclones inside, outrebounding them 47-32 and limiting them to 18 points in the paint. Iowa State never shot a free throw, either.
“Iowa State is much better, way better than they looked today,” Auriemma said.
But that’s what happens to every good team, it seems, that faces UConn.
Here’s a scary prospect for upcoming opponents: Most of the Huskies did not have vintage days at the offensive end. Charles was just 5 of 13 and fellow starters Kalana Greene (2 of 6), Tiffany Hayes (1 of 8) and Caroline Doty (1 of 5) also misfired frequently.
The Huskies shot just 39 percent from the field.
Now 74-15 in NCAA play, the Huskies have won their last nine NCAA tournament games and 13 of 14. The only loss is an 82-73 setback to Stanford in the national semifinals in 2008.
So good are the Huskies that their chief competitors now may be the great UConn and Tennessee teams of the past, according to Fennelly, who has won 498 games in his 22 years as a head coach.
“(UConn) is arguably the best team I’ve ever seen,” he said, shaking his head.