Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Star forwards step up as stakes rise

SAN ANTONIO — When Connecticut and Stanford vie for the NCAA women's basketball title tonight, a highly anticipated matchup between each team's top player figures to be even more captivating in light of virtuoso performances in the national semifinals.

For Huskies junior forward Maya Moore, playing at that level in the sport's showcase event is nothing new. For Cardinal sophomore forward Nnemkadi Ogwumike, it could be the first of many such feats.

Moore had 34 points in Connecticut's 70-50 victory over Baylor on Sunday in the Final Four and was at her best during a decisive 16-4 run in the second half after the Bears drew within three with 14:55 to play.

Not to be outdone, Ogwumike scored a career-high 38, including seven in a row to close the game, in Stanford's 73-66 win against Oklahoma.

"Nneka had a great game (Sunday) night, and she is really stepping up for us," Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Maya Moore is just, she's a tough guard for anyone in that she's so big, so strong. … She's the best player in the college game, and she's better than a lot of the professionals, too."

Moore, who won multiple player of the year awards last season, has averaged 24.2 points during this year's NCAA Tournament for the top-ranked Huskies (38-0).

When Connecticut's lead dwindled to 41-38 on Sunday, Moore had six points, two rebounds, an assist and a steal over two minutes as the Huskies reclaimed a comfortable margin. In a subsequent stretch, Moore scored five in a row, and Connecticut led by 20 with 1:37 to play.

"We ran a couple of things specifically for her after they got it to four or five or three, whatever it was," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "She made a couple of big buckets, and the kids on the bench were yelling, 'Great read, Maya.' "

Connecticut has trailed in the second half only twice this season. The first was when it fell behind visiting Stanford 44-42 shortly after intermission on Dec. 23 before rallying for an 80-68 triumph.

That game also served notice to the Huskies that Ogwumike was a player not to be regarded lightly. She scored a team-high 20 on 8-of-10 shooting and added six rebounds and a steal.

"She's an outstanding player," Moore said of Ogwumike, who is averaging 21.4 points and 12.2 rebounds in the tournament. "She works extremely hard. She has, I think, developed faster than any sophomore in the country, and she has a lot of confidence right now."

It's easy to see why, considering she outscored Oklahoma's starting frontcourt by herself and lifted her game when circumstances were the most dire. During the final 51 seconds, Ogwumike was the only player on Stanford (36-1) to score.

After leaving briefly after a hard foul, Ogwumike re-entered and made an uncontested layup with 15 seconds to play. She put the finishing touches on the victory with two free throws.

"Tara tells me all the time that I can get better," Ogwumike said. "As good as it may seem, there's still room for improvement. I know I can get better and still think I can. Everyone's behind me."

Star forwards step up as stakes rise 04/05/10 [Last modified: Monday, April 5, 2010 11:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Storm routs Cleveland


    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  2. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  3. Rowdies shut out Charleston


    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.
  4. Rays journal: Former closer Sergio Romo acquired from Dodgers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays made a move to help the bullpen Saturday night when they acquired RHP Sergio Romo, who had been designated for assignment last week by the Dodgers.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (23) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, July 7, 2017.
  5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. backs wife's "not worth risk'' opinion on Daytona

    Auto racing

    INDIANAPOLIS — Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Saturday defended his wife's Twitter post — and blamed himself for putting her in a position where she believed she had to speak out and upset some of his fans.

    Amy Earnhardt worries about Dale Jr.’s concussions.