No. 1 Connecticut 71, Georgia Tech 51

Maya Moore wanted to treat it like just another game, and for

the most part it was. Another outstanding performance. Another

Connecticut win.

Moore didn’t truly savor her homecoming until she finally came

off the court with less than a minute to go.

Looking up and all those family and friends, she clapped for

them.

Moore scored 30 points in her return to Atlanta, leading

top-ranked UConn to its 81st consecutive victory with a 71-51 rout

of Georgia Tech on Sunday. The Huskies (3-0) tied Washington

University, an NCAA Division III school, for the most consecutive

wins by a woman’s program at any level.

”I felt their support,” said Moore, back in the city where she

developed her marvelous game. ”It’s always good to know you have

fans all over the country, but especially to be back here in

Georgia. This was familiar territory. It felt good.”

Growing up, the three-time All-American played in gyms around

Atlanta and came to national prominence as a star at suburban

Collins Hill High School.

When it came time to pick a college, Moore headed north to join

the powerhouse of women’s college basketball. But UConn coach Geno

Auriemma made sure to schedule a home-and-home series with Georgia

Tech, allowing Moore to show off for the home folks her senior

year.

They came out in droves for the game at Alexander Memorial

Coliseum, giving the Yellow Jackets the largest women’s crowd

(7,325) in school history.

”I didn’t get a chance to see any of my family before the game,

but knowing there were there, my family and friends, and they came

out to support my team, that means the world to me,” Moore said.

”It was kind of surreal.”

Coming off a one-point win over No. 2 Baylor, the Huskies had a

much easier time against Georgia Tech (3-2). They took control with

a 14-0 run midway through the first half, led 41-23 at halftime and

were never seriously threatened over the final 20 minutes.

Washington University won 81 in a row from 1998-2001. UConn

should break the mark against Howard on Friday, then set off toward

the next milestone: UCLA’s 88-game winning streak during the 1970s,

the longest by a men’s program.

”I’ve not really thought of it in those terms,” Auriemma said.

”I’m using the streak right now in my own mind as the greatest

thing to ever happen for the next team we play. What number it is,

I don’t know. It’s Georgia Tech for me.”

Tyaunna Marshall led Georgia Tech with 23 points, but the home

team couldn’t overcome 35 percent shooting (19 of 55) and a

staggering 24 turnovers – 16 in the first half.

The Streak lives on.

”I’m sure Georgia Tech was praying we would beat Baylor,”

Auriemma said. ”They didn’t want us coming down here with one

loss. Everyone wants to be the one that does it.”

Moore played all but the final 58.3 seconds, coming out to one

last standing ovation. She slapped hands with each of her

teammates, then applauded toward the stands.

The 6-foot forward struggled a bit with her outside shot, making

only 2 of 9 from 3-point range, even with plenty of open looks.

Still, she finished 13 of 26 from the field, grabbed eight

rebounds, doled out four assists, plus had two steals and two

blocks.

”Maya was Maya,” Auriemma said. ”She didn’t shoot the ball

particularly well, but neither did the rest of the team. But she

made some huge plays in the end. She did what Maya always does.

Maya figures out a way to put points on the board for us. That’s

never been more important for us than it is this year.”

Moore’s cheering contingent included dozens of fans wearing blue

T-shirts that had ”Maya’s Family & Friends” emblazoned across

the front. Her mother, Kathryn, was sitting right behind the UConn

bench, waving a blue-and-white pompon. Across the way, a group held

up giant placards that spelled ”Welcome Home Maya.”

Perhaps nervous playing in front of so many familiar faces,

Moore got off to a shaky start. She missed five straight shots and

turned it over a couple of times before settling into a familiar

groove.

”You’ve got a couple of hundred people coming to see you,

family and friends and friends you didn’t even know are friends,”

Auriemma said. ”It’s not easy.”

With the game tied at 11, the Huskies took control by scoring 14

straight points.

Georgia Tech couldn’t do anything right during a scoreless

streak that lasted nearly 5 minutes, struggling just to get up

shots against the Huskies. The Yellow Jackets turned it over six

times, ruined another possession with an offensive foul and missed

four straight shots.

Coach MaChelle Joseph was hoping her team could duplicate its

effort at UConn two years ago, when Georgia Tech was tied at

halftime and trailed by three late before the Huskies pulled away

for an 82-71 win. The Yellow Jackets pressed relentlessly in that

game and hoped to do the same Sunday, but all the mistakes and

missed shots made it difficult to set up the defense.

UConn stretched out the lead to 47-27 early in the second half,

and any hopes of Georgia Tech comeback ended when co-leading scorer

Alex Montgomery picked up her fourth foul at the offensive end with

nearly 16 minutes remaining.

Without Montgomery, the Yellow Jackets did put together an 11-2

spurt but never got the margin into single digits. Not against

Moore, who scored the Huskies’ next six points to extend the lead

back into comfortable territory.

She pushed her scoring total to 30 points on a nifty drive and

finger roll with just over 4 minutes remaining, bringing the crowd

– even the Georgia Tech fans – to their feet.

”I thought Maya Moore showed why she’s the best player in

college basketball,” Joseph said. ”She puts that team on her back

and carries them. She makes big plays at the right time. She played

39 minutes and she played hard for 39 minutes. She was making plays

almost right to the final buzzer.”