UConn looks for 81 straight in Moore's homecoming
Maya Moore will be returning to her roots on Sunday, and she's bringing along quite a treat for the home folks.
Moore's top-ranked Connecticut Huskies have a shot at equaling the longest winning streak in women's basketball history when they face Georgia Tech.
''It will be a good atmosphere,'' she said. ''A lot of people hopefully will come out.''
UConn (2-0) has won 80 in a row, a streak that barely stayed alive Tuesday when the Huskies held off No. 2 Baylor 65-64. Now, it's off to a city that Moore knows well, sparking unprecedented interest at Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets had sold more than 6,000 tickets as of Saturday, and were hoping for the first home sellout ever at 9,100-seat Alexander Memorial Coliseum. They were even hyping the contest during the football game against Duke.
Moore has no doubt that most of those fans will be cheering for the home team.
''I've heard a lot of friends and family say they'll be there,'' she said. ''But it is a road game, so we're going to expect a crowd against us and we're going to come together even more.''
Growing up, Moore honed her game at gyms around Atlanta before starring at suburban Collins Hill High School. She headed north to play her college ball at the powerhouse of women's basketball, but UConn coach Geno Auriemma threw his star player a bone by setting up a game in her hometown for her senior season.
In a fortuitous bit of timing, the Huskies will be going for their 81st victory in a row, which would tie Washington University in St. Louis for the longest streak at any level of women's college basketball. The Division III school went without a loss from 1998-2001.
Like so many teams before, Georgia Tech (3-1) is eager to put an end to UConn's streak.
''If and when it happens, it will be a historical moment,'' coach MaChelle Joseph said. ''We've won a lot of games at home. We know how to protect our home floor. We understand what's ahead and what it's going to take. Our kids are excited. We've got some talent. It will be exciting to watch. It's a great matchup and you never know what might happen. That's why you play the game.''
The Yellow Jackets may have some talent, but they don't have anyone like Moore.
No one does.
The 6-foot forward already is being hailed as one of the best women ever to play the game - and she hasn't even graduated from college yet. Moore is already a three-time All-American who has led the Huskies to a pair of national championships.
Joseph said her team can't get caught up in only trying to stop Moore.
''No one has stopped her in three or four years,'' Joseph said. ''We need to stay focused on us. We're Georgia Tech. We need to play Georgia Tech basketball. We want people reacting to us instead of us reacting to them.''
Two years ago, the Yellow Jackets traveled north to face the Huskies on their court in the season opener. It was tied at the half, and Georgia Tech trailed by only three before UConn closed with a 17-9 run for an 82-71 win.
Joseph has a different roster but will be looking for the same attitude in the rematch.
''We played fearless in that game,'' she recalled. ''We were very disruptive on the defensive end. I don't know many people who go into UConn pressing them. We caught them off guard as someone who had the nerve to press them for 40 minutes.''
Expect more of the same on Sunday.
''We're going to play Georgia Tech basketball,'' Joseph said. ''We're not going to adjust our defensive system for UConn. That's the way we've played for four years, and that's the way we're going to continue to play. You've got to have tremendous confidence in what you do.''
The Huskies certainly have that confidence, though they insist there's not much focus on The Streak - even as they close in on a more hallowed milestone, UCLA's 88 straight wins on the men's side back in the 1970s.
''They were pretty happy in that locker room after the (Baylor) game,'' Auriemma said. ''And that's a pretty good sign because none of it had to do with, 'Whew, we kept the steak alive. Wow, we dodged another bullet.' There was none of that.''
Joseph knows her team will be facing more than the country's best player and the top-ranked team.
The Huskies have that mystique about them, that sense that everything will always work out in the end, just as it did against Baylor.
''You don't win 80 straight games if you don't understand winning and have a tremendous amount of pride,'' Joseph said. ''They expect to win games they shouldn't win. They don't know anything but winning. Losing is not an option for them. It's not only the five players on the floor. They also have that tradition and perception that they don't lose.''
Associated Press Writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Storrs, Conn., contributed to this report.