Maya Moore's first game as a husky
Originally published Nov. 17, 2008
UConn's opener Sunday against Georgia Tech, coach Geno Auriemma, interested in discovering what wrinkles still need ironing, had the lecture material he needs to get him through the next few days of practice.
The score: Georgia Tech 34, No. 1 UConn 34.
Let's face it, the Huskies were 20 minutes from a rambling wreck that would have put a dent in their national profile.
"We knew coming into the game, because of the style they played, that this could be a little bit of a headache," Auriemma said. "And it turned out to be exactly what we thought it would be."
Then came the second half; better, although not entirely liberating.
Maya Moore, who left the Atlanta area two years ago to pursue her future at UConn, scored 10 points in the first eight minutes of the second half to help the Huskies open an 11-point lead.
But it wasn't until the final five minutes, when heightened defense and offensive rebounding helped the Huskies roll off a 15-7 run, that their 82-71 victory at Gampel Pavilion was secure before 8,871.
"It shouldn't have come to the final five minutes," UConn guard Renee Montgomery said. "We should have handled business over the first 35. But we can be happy on how we handled ourselves when the game was on the line."
UConn had five players in double figures, led by Moore, who had 20 points and 14 rebounds. She has 12 career double-doubles and has scored in double figures in 37 of her 39 games.
Montgomery (2 of 8 on three-pointers) added 15. Freshman Caroline Doty had 13, despite making only 3 of 10 (1 of 8 from three).
Junior Tina Charles had 15 points, giving her 1,011 in her career. She's the 31st player in program history to reach the milestone.
"It's cool," Charles said. "If anyone is more excited, I think my mom likely is because she kept talking about it over the summer."
This certainly wasn't expected. Consider that the Huskies hadn't been tied with or trailed an unranked opponent at halftime in a season opener since 1991 against California - Rebecca Lobo's freshman season.
That's five national championships ago.
"Basically, we were focused and ready to play," Tech sophomore Alex Montgomery said. "We weren't going to let the name on their jerseys strike fear in us. We were just ready. They are just like any other team; just like us. They put their tights on the same way as us."
They just didn't shoot threes as well as Tech, which stayed within reach by making 10 of 15. Tech trailed 65-62 with 6:55 to play after a basket by freshman Mo Bennett (19 points), who made 8 of 11 shots.
"I don't think anyone made 10 threes against us all last year," Auriemma said. He was correct. Nine was the most.
The Yellow Jackets (1-1), who play with 10 freshmen and sophomores, began their season in Atlanta Friday with a win over Troy. And even though the level of play was clearly higher Sunday, they showed no trouble adjusting.
"Any time you come into the home of the No. 1 team in the country and give them the battle we did for 35 minutes, I think that bodes well for us down the road," Georgia Tech coach MaChelle Joseph said.
Auriemma used the same lineup he favored in exhibition, giving Doty her first start. But this was not Stonehill. This certainly was not Team SRP.
And one of his biggest fears also quickly came true. Shortly after scoring her 1,000th point, Charles picked up her second foul. With freshman center Heather Buck out for at least three weeks, junior center Kaili McLaren was ineffective and played only nine minutes, just three in the second half.
Sophomore guard Lorin Dixon (11 minutes) did not play in the second half as Auriemma went with a tight six-man rotation that included just Tiffany Hayes off the bench.
Montgomery played 40 minutes, Moore 39 and Doty 31.
"We have got to think about how to change that," Auriemma said.
And Kalana Greene (11 points, 5 of 5 shooting), on the floor for the first time in a regular season game since her knee injury last December, played 26 minutes, highlighting a guard-oriented lineup that will try to compensate for its lack of height and muscle with leaping ability and speed.