Maya Moore wanted to treat it like just another game, and for
the most part it was. Another outstanding performance. Another
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
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
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
”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
”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
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.”