No. 1 Connecticut 53, No. 2 Stanford 47

There was no panic in the locker room. No pep talk, either. Maya

Moore and her Connecticut Huskies knew the score.

“It couldn’t get any worse,” she said. And it was all slipping

away – the streak, the perfect season, the championship.

Leave it to Moore. The tournament’s most outstanding player took

over the NCAA title game Tuesday night, rallying the Huskies from a

horrible first half to a 53-47 victory over Stanford.

“We knew a run was coming,” she said. “We settled down and

hit some big shots.”

Suddenly, a team that was stagnant on offense and trailing 20-12

at the break was moving and scoring.

“Just no fear,” said Moore.

That could be a motto for coach Geno Auriemma’s Huskies. UConn

(39-0) is the first team ever to have consecutive unbeaten seasons,

but that doesn’t cover it.

The Huskies have been unstoppable over the past two years,

winning 78 straight – every game until Tuesday night by double

figures – and passing their own NCAA women’s Division I record of

70 straight wins set from 2001-03. The championship victory put

them within 10 of the vaunted 88-game streak set by John Wooden’s

UCLA men in the early 1970s.

Thanks to Moore. The sensational junior scored 11 of the

Huskies’ first 17 points in the second half. She finished with 23

points and 11 rebounds to help Auriemma win his seventh national

championship, moving within one title of Pat Summitt and

Tennessee.

“It’s what great players do,” Auriemma said. “They do it at

the most pressure packed times that makes them who they are.”

“That’s what makes them great. Maya’s a great scorer and you

get that reputation by scoring points under pressure. She certainly

did that.”

Tina Charles added nine points, 11 rebounds, and 6 blocks. The

senior and Auriemma shared an embrace after the final buzzer.

The lowest-scoring game in NCAA championship game history was

played in front of a crowd of 22,936 that included Vice President

Joe Biden, who hugged the UConn players after the game, as well as

former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. While Biden showed

impartiality in his cheering, Rice was rooting on Stanford – the

school at which she served as provost for six years.

She visited with the team at a morning shootaround, offering

words of encouragement. Rice had hoped to see the Cardinal win

their third championship and first since 1992.

Stanford (36-2) played a nearly flawless defensive first half,

holding UConn to 12 points – the lowest ever in a championship game

and the lowest in school history.

“I can’t even imagine them scoring only 12 points,” Stanford

coach Tara VanDerveer said. “It was just an incredible job.”

But then Moore and the Huskies took over.

“Maya Moore was the difference,” VanDerveer said. “If she’s

on our team, we win. She really stepped up and made big plays for

them. Really, she’s a great player and she made big plays.”

UConn opened the second half by scoring 17 of the first 19

points to take its first lead since early in the game.

Moore’s 3-pointer from the top of the key made it 23-22, giving

UConn its first lead since it was 5-0. That ended a 19-minute

stretch in which UConn was behind – the longest that UConn had

trailed this season. The only time that the Huskies were behind

longer than 10 minutes also had been against Stanford, the first

time they met.

Moore followed up her 3 with a sweet jumper and a layup on the

break after Charles had blocked Nnemkadi Ogwumike on the other

end.

JJ Hones’ 3-pointer with 11:46 left in the game cut the deficit

to 29-25, but then Charles made her presence felt, scoring seven of

the Huskies next nine points to make it 38-27 with 7:42 left.

Stanford would only get as close as five the rest of the way.

UConn let the Cardinal close the gap late, making just 9 of 22 free

throws for the game.

This was the sixth time the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the final

AP Top 25 poll met for the title. The last came in 2002 when UConn

beat Oklahoma in San Antonio.

Even though Stanford was second in the poll all season and its

only loss came to Connecticut, it would have been a monumental

upset had the Cardinal won.

The two teams have developed a cross-country rivalry over the

past three seasons, since Stanford beat UConn in the 2008 national

semifinals. The Huskies haven’t lost since, defeating the Cardinal

three times during that stretch.

They played back on Dec. 23, when UConn came away with a

12-point victory. Stanford led that game by two at the half, but

the Huskies went on a 30-6 run in the second half to take

control.

VanDerveer had talked on Monday about how important it was for

her team to get out to a quick start. UConn scored the first five

points, but then went over 10 minutes without one, missing 16

straight shots – including eight 3-pointers – as Stanford took a

12-5 lead.

Moore’s acrobatic layup finally ended UConn’s drought with 7:22

left in the half, but Jeanette Pohlen answered right back with a

3-pointer. Kayla Pedersen’s 3-pointer made it 18-9 – the biggest

deficit UConn had faced the entire season.

In the second half, though, Stanford couldn’t hold on.

Pedersen led the Cardinal with 15 points and 17 rebounds.

Nnemkadi Ogwumike, who had 38 points in the national semifinals,

added 11 points and 13 boards.

“Twelve points in the first half was extremely helpful for us,

but we weren’t able to capitalize,” Pedersen said. “We kept

fighting, kept fighting and things weren’t falling for us. We

needed to make our own run and we didn’t really do that.”

Jayne Appel, who came into the game with an injured ankle, was

ineffective going scoreless. The senior missed all 12 of her

shots.

“I’m really sad for her to go out on this kind of game,”

VanDerveer said. “She just was not able to push off her ankle and

her foot’s bothering her. I’m more sad for her than anyone

else.”