UConn's Charles is AP's best Duke to play Butler for championship
By DOUG FEINBERG
SAN ANTONIO — Tina Charles sat next to Maya Moore at the AP Awards ceremony yesterday fully expecting to congratulate her teammate on winning another trophy.
UConn's star center was completely shocked when she ended up being the one picking up the award.
"I loved her reaction because it was so genuine," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "Now she's going into this weekend thinking I'm getting recognized for what I've done."
Charles got 33 of the votes from the 40-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25 to earn The Associated Press player of the year honor. Nebraska's Connie Yori was voted the AP's coach of the year.
Charles, who holds both the career scoring and rebounding records for Connecticut's powerhouse program, has been the anchor in the middle for the Huskies during their NCAA record 76-game winning streak. However, her low expectations were understandable. Moore won this award as a sophomore last season and, earlier yesterday, Moore picked up her second straight Wade Trophy as the top player in women's college basketball.
"I want to thank all the individuals who pushed me, all the individuals who told me to keep doing it," said a beaming Charles.
Moore finished second in the balloting with four votes.
Charles is the seventh UConn player to win the award. She averaged 18.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and shot 63.5 percent from the field to help UConn move within two victories of becoming the first team to go undefeated in consecutive seasons.
Yori guided Nebraska to one of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA history, going from 15-16 last season to winning its first 30 games before losing in the Big 12 tournament semifinals. The Huskers then reached the regional semifinals for the first time in school history.
"This season has been a perfect storm," Yori said. "You've got a lot of things that fell into place for us."
CALIFORNIA 73, MIAMI 61
After leading her team to a victory over Miami in the WNIT championship game at Berkeley, Calif., Cal freshman DeNesha Stallworth couldn't help but look ahead.
"Very, very excited," said Stallworth, who scored 21 points. "I really can't wait for next season."
The WNIT title was the first for Cal (24-13), which finished second in 1987 in an eight-team field. Shenise Johnson scored 21 points for Miami (22-14).