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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 5, 2010

UConn, Stanford reach title game


Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Connecticut's Maya Moore slips past Baylor's Shanay Washington for two of her 34 points. The Huskies led 41-38 before winning 70-50.

ERIC GAY | Associated Press

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Tina Charles

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SAN ANTONIO Maya Moore and her Connecticut Huskies got past one real big obstacle blocking their path.

So after pulling away from 6-foot-8 freshman Brittney Griner and Baylor for a 70-50 win last night and their 77th straight win, the Huskies are ready for a rematch with Stanford, this time for the NCAA championship.

A win tomorrow night and they'll be the first women's team to go undefeated in consecutive seasons.

UConn was tested and threatened for one of the rare times during its streak. Ahead 41-38 with 15 minutes left, the Huskies responded. Coach Geno Auriemma actually enjoyed it.

"I liked coaching tonight. We've played a lot of basketball this year and there haven't been a lot of opportunities where we've been challenged and pushed to that extent as we were tonight," Auriemma said. "We like the challenge and the competitiveness of the game. Makes you feel like you really accomplished something."

Moore had 34 points and 12 rebounds while Tina Charles added 21 points and 13 boards for UConn (38-0), which beat Stanford, 80-68, on Dec. 23 in Hartford. That's the closest any team has come all season to the Huskies, who have won every game during their streak by double digits.

Stanford handed UConn its last loss back in the 2008 Final Four.

"The matchup doesn't matter to us," Charles said. "Whoever is going to be in the way, that's who we're going to have to go up against. It's nothing personal or anything like that."

Tomorrow's championship game will be the sixth time that the top two teams in the final Top 25 poll will meet for the title.

"I'm so excited. It's what we work for all season," Moore said. "I'm almost speechless."

Most of the pregame attention focused on the intriguing matchup at center between Griner and Charles. Griner finished with 13 points and five blocks.

"She just did what every other post does," Griner said of Charles, the AP's player of the year. "She was just a lot better than most other posts."

But the Lady Bears (27-10) had no answer for Moore. Inside and out, the three-time All-American tormented Baylor.

"Maya made, obviously, some huge shots," Auriemma said.

The Lady Bears cut a 13-point halftime deficit to 41-38, drawing huge cheers from an Alamodome crowd.

With the score 45-40, Moore ended any chances of a monumental upset, scoring six of the next eight points to restore the Huskies' double-digit lead. Her jumper made it 53-40 with 10:26 left.

"I looked up at the other four teammates and all I saw was positive body language." Moore said.

Baylor never got closer than 11 the rest of the way.

STANFORD 73, OKLAHOMA 66

Stanford's Nnemkadi Ogwumike was having one of the greatest performances ever at a women's Final Four, yet her team was ahead by only three points with 16 seconds left.

So how in the world did she break free for an uncontested layup?

Slipping away from the Oklahoma defenders she'd befuddled all night, Ogwumike took a long inbounds pass near midcourt and strolled in for an easy basket that sent the Cardinal into the national championship game.

"I didn't think I would actually be open," Ogwumike said. "I thought it was an awesome play to run. It was definitely spur of the moment. A great coaching decision. We executed it right and it worked."

Ogwumike scored Stanford's first eight points and the final seven in the last 51.3 seconds on the way to a career-high 38 points. It was the second-most in women's Final Four history, behind the 47 scored by Texas Tech's Sheryl Swoopes in the 1993 championship game.

Ogwumike also had 16 rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal, which came right after that game-sealing layup, as the Cardinal (36-1) advanced to play Connecticut.

Ogwumike had 14 points and nine rebounds by halftime, and seemed to be everywhere. When a Sooners player grabbed an offensive rebound, she stunned the girl by reaching around and grabbing it, too, tying her up. Then she deflected a pass out of bounds off an OU player and celebrated with a fist pump, a high-five and a smile worthy of a swished 3-pointer. She later felt a double team and shoveled a pass to Jayne Appel for a layup that put the Cardinal up by 14.

When Oklahoma (27-11) started closing in midway through the second half, Ogwumike scored eight points during a 12-4 run.

"Her game has matured," Stanford coach TaraVanDerveer said. "She's confident, in the flow, knows what we're looking for."

Sparkplug point guard Danielle Robinson led the Sooners with 23 points and six assists.