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Freshman helps UConn avoid upset against Rutgers

Connecticut’s Maya Moore, trying to shoot over Rutgers’ Essence Carson in the first half, made a crucial 3-pointer late.

Associated Press

Connecticut’s Maya Moore, trying to shoot over Rutgers’ Essence Carson in the first half, made a crucial 3-pointer late.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — For 37 minutes, Maya Moore played like a typical college freshman.

But it took only one instant for Connecticut's All-America forward to show why she is a premier player.

Moore's 3-pointer from the top of the key with just less than three minutes left gave the Huskies the lead for keeps, and UConn put down Big East rival Rutgers 66-56 in the Greensboro Region final.

The victory propelled the Huskies (36-1) to their sixth Final Four this decade but their first since winning titles in 2002-2004. UConn faces Stanford in Sunday's national semifinals at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa.

Rutgers, which seemed destined for its second straight Final Four appearance, finished 27-7.

After being held to four points, limited touches and no clean looks, Moore came off a screen, took a pass from Ketia Swanier and made the 3 to put the Huskies in front 52-49 with 2:55 left. Rutgers closed to within one moments later, but UConn sealed the win by making 14 straight free throws in the final 2:08.

Moore's seven points matched her lowest total of the season, but her final heroics made statistical data moot. She finished 3-for-7 from the floor.

"I tried not to force anything," Moore said. "I haven't seen too many defenses like that, but I just tried to concentrate on rebounding, boxing out, playing good defense. There are more ways I can help this team win other than shooting the ball."

But when Moore found the open shot with the game in the balance, there was no hesitation.

"I just told myself, 'Keep playing (on offense) like you have 20 right now,' " she said. "I didn't think. I just shot it. And it worked out."

The guard tandem of Swanier and Renee Montgomery led UConn with 15 points each, and Kaili McLaren added 10.

Rutgers' Matee Ajavon led all scorers with 18, while Essence Carson added 12 points and 12 rebounds.

"It's unfortunate it's over, because we definitely felt like this game was ours," said Ajavon, one of three Rutgers seniors. "Whenever you know it's your final game, there are no smiles."

After trailing by double digits most of the first half and by five at halftime, UConn battled back to force a tie in the opening minutes of the second half. The Huskies took their first lead on McLaren's layup off a pass from Swanier with 6:47 left.

The game opened in the most horrific fashion imaginable for UConn, which turned the ball over seven times in the first 10 minutes while going 4-for-12 from the floor. Rutgers raced to a 29-15 lead before the Huskies found their bearings.

Turning up the heat with pressure that forced four turnovers in the final four minutes, UConn clawed its way back into the game by half.

UConn 66

Rutgers 56

Freshman helps UConn avoid upset against Rutgers 04/01/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 11:20am]
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