The women’s NCAA tournament has been abuzz with the emergence of Baylor star freshman Brittney Griner, and fans might tune in Sunday night to see if the 6-foot-8-inch shot-blocking machine can snap the Connecticut Lady Huskies 76-game win streak.

But those fans shouldn’t be surprised if they’re instead dazzled by another star during the anticipated matchup. UConn junior forward Maya Moore is the best player on what is touted to be the best team in the nation, and she’s held that title since first arriving on Connecticut’s campus in 2007. A Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter wrote in December 2006 that if “you put a basketball in her hands, she will win not just most of the time, but nearly every time she walks on the court.” 

Looking back over the Lady Huskies’ amazing winning streak, the second most by any school—men’s or women’s—in NCAA history, it seems that writer’s praise isn’t an exaggeration.

The 6-foot Jefferson City, Missouri native has led her team in scoring since her freshman season, and currently averages 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. She is one of only four players to be named to the Associated Press All-American Team three times, a group that includes former Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw, former Duke star Alana Bear and former Oklahoma star Courtney Paris.

“To be in that same category is surreal,” Moore told reporters, according to ESPN. “I definitely looked up to Chamique Holdsclaw and Alana Beard. I remember thinking how great those women were growing up as a little kid watching the Final Four.”

Moore was also the first freshman player, male or female, to win the Big East Player of the Year award, and earned the same honor again as a sophomore. She was a front-runner for the award this season, but said she was happy to see her fellow teammate senior Tina Charles take the honor instead.

“I think it’s even cooler because you get to share it with your teammates,” Moore said. “It’s always nice to be recognized for the hard work that we do.”

Charles averaged as many points this season as Moore and also averaged 9.3 rebounds per game.

“I think that’s just the cherry on top to be recognized as one of the best,” The 6-foot-4-inch  center Charles said, according to ESPN. “It just shows that hard work definitely pays off and just everything that coach was trying to teach me definitely paid off.”

Charles will be UConn’s primary defender against Baylor’s Griner, and she may end up as her team’s go-to offense weapon as well, just as she was when Moore got into foul trouble in a dominant 90-50 win over Florida State in the Elite 8 round.

“My teammates say as long as I do my part, they’ll deliver it to me,” said Charles, who controlled the paint with 20 points and 14 rebounds against FSU.

If she turns in a similar performance against Baylor, UConn will be one game away from winning its second straight national title, and seventh championship in school history.

 

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor