Moore comes off bench to wow as usual

Maya Moore didn't start her first regular-season college basketball game, but that's about the only thing the two-time Naismith girls high school player of the year didn't do.

Instead of the University of Connecticut's Gampel Pavilion, it was almost as if the 6-foot freshman was back at Collins Hill's gym.

Except for the part about starting the game on the bench, of course.

Moore didn't stay there long, though. She entered before the game was four minutes old Sunday and had 21 points to go with 10 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocked shots in the Huskies' 98-35 rout of Stony Brook.

With all five starters back, Moore hasn't won an immediate spot in the opening lineup despite her high school honors. For now, she is the biggest weapon off the bench in New England since John Havlicek's glory days as a sixth man with the Boston Celtics.

Moore's point total was the highest for a UConn freshman since Jennifer Rizzotti had 23 in 1992. The double-double in her debut was the first since it was accomplished by Ann Strother in 2002.

"We'd already played two preseason games, so I was feeling relaxed about things," Moore told the media following the game. "I just wanted to come in with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. It's what makes the game fun to play."

Moore had a basket and a blocked shot shortly after entering and wowed the crowd of 9,370 with a no-look pass during a second-half fastbreak. Playing 20 minutes, she hit 8 of 12 shots, including 3 of 4 behind the 3-point arc, and was 2-for-2 from the foul line.

Still, Moore will remain a non-starter - at least for now. The No. 2-ranked Huskies are that deep in talent.

"When you look back at all those times when we've had a freshman that had to start, that usually meant we were a year or two away from winning," Connecticut women's coach Geno Auriemma told the media. "So now, I don't think we're a year or two away from winning, I think we can win the whole thing right now."

UConn hasn't been back to the Final Four since winning its fifth national title in 2004, but that appears ready to change this season. The Huskies are ranked behind only Tennessee - a team they won't play in the regular season this year.

Moore picked UConn over the Volunteers, Georgia and Duke, and is adjusting to life in New England with the help of her mother, Kathryn, who moved to Connecticut from Lawrenceville.

Moore has never had any problems adjusting on a basketball court and she certainly fits right in with the Huskies.

"I think we all play on the same pace," Moore told the media. "I know if I'm running somebody's going to be running next to me."

Despite UConn's five returning starters, Moore was the preseason pick for Big East freshman of the year.

Of course, she is used to honors and winning.

At Collins Hill, she was a part of three state titles while scoring 2,664 points in her four-year career. The Eagles were unbeaten last season and ranked No. 1 in the nation by USA Today.

Moore was also the leader of a United States teams that won World Championship gold medals in under-18 and under-19 competition the past two summers.

When UConn hosts Holy Cross on Wednesday, however, Moore will remain the Huskies' super-sub. No other college team - men's or women's - has someone that game-changing on the bench.


Who: Maya Moore

College: Connecticut

High school: Collins Hill

Age: 18

Height: 6 feet

Update: Had a double-double (21 points and 10 rebounds) in the Huskies' opening 98-35 rout of Stoney Brook

Worth noting: Won her second Naismith Award as the top high school player in the country after leading Collins Hill to an unbeaten season and No. 1 national ranking by USA Today. Won three state titles and was 125-3 in four high school seasons. Had 2,664 points, 1,212 rebounds, 407 assists and 467 steals.