BATON ROUGE, La. - An LSU team with seven seniors who have never missed the Final Four had no answer for Connecticut's fabulous freshman.
Cillons Hill grad Maya Moore scored 18 of her 29 points in the second half to lift top-ranked Connecticut to a 74-69 victory over No. 6 LSU on Monday night, snapping the Lady Tigers' 14-game winning streak.
So much for any notion that Moore, making her first trip to Baton Rouge for her first game against LSU, might fall victim to nerves or inexperience.
'She's just a unique individual,' said UConn head coach Geno Auriemma, who should know after winning five national titles during 23 years with the Huskies.
'The shots that she can make, nobody else can make under those conditions. She never loses her composure,' Auriemma said. 'When she gets the ball in her hands, I don't care where it is, if it's at LSU or against Stony Brook in the first game of the year, the kid has a certain presence about her that very few people have. I don't think there's anybody in the country who has a psychological advantage over her.'
LSU coach Van Chancellor, who has won Olympics and WNBA titles, seemed to agree. He found Moore after the game and shook her hand, telling her, 'You're a very special freshman.'
Moore shot 10 of 17, including two 3-pointers, and made all seven of her foul shots.
'I've never seen a freshman score like that in a hostile environment,' Chancellor said. 'Their ability to knock down some tough shots was the difference. I'm really proud of our team. I'm disappointed that we couldn't find a way to make a defensive stop.'
Sophomore center Tina Charles added 18 points, converting several clutch baskets inside over 6-foot-6 LSU senior center Sylvia Fowles.
Charles' last basket gave UConn (27-1) a 72-66 lead with a little over a minute to go.
Quianna Chaney hit her sixth 3-pointer of the game shortly after to pull LSU to 72-69. LSU (23-4) then forced the Huskies into a shot clock violation, gaining a chance to tie the game on its next possession. Chaney, who finished with 22 points, rushed her next attempt, however.
'I thought the time was almost gone,' Chaney said. 'I probably could have held the ball and probably got a screen and a better shot instead of wasting that one.'
Instead, the Lady Tigers were forced to foul with 6 seconds left.
Moore made them pay, hitting her final two free throws to put the game away.
'I really wasn't nervous at all,' Moore said. 'I was just excited to play. After my first few college games those nerves kind of left. I don't want to allow myself to be nervous and have it affect my game. Offensively, you can say this has been one of my best games. I think it was a step forward.'
Fowles finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds to lead LSU. She was 8 of 14 shooting and 10 of 13 on foul shots.
'Connecticut is the No. 1 team in the country and they aren't No. 1 for nothing,' Fowles said. 'When you get out here it's going to be a fight. They took good shots and got rebounds.'
Kaili McLaren had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Huskies as UConn outrebounded LSU 39-25. Renee Montgomery added 10 points in a tense, physical game that sent players from both teams hard to the floor. At one point in the second half, Auriemma launched into a tirade and was assessed a technical foul as he was held back by assistant coaches. When the game was over, Auriemma walked from the bench more relieved than exultant, holding both hands on his head.
The game marked the second time in less than two weeks that LSU had faced a No. 1 team. The Lady Tigers were impressive in their first such opportunity, winning at Tennessee by 16 points on Feb. 14.
Chancellor called his team's contest against the Huskies the game of the year in women's college basketball.
Although these giants of the women's game don't play in the same conference, they have a history. UConn pulled out a dramatic one-point victory in Baton Rouge last season, only to suffer one of its worst NCAA tournament losses to the Lady Tigers last spring.
LSU also picked this matchup for a pre-game ceremony to unveil a life-size statue of late Hall-of-Fame coach Sue Gunter.
Gunter would have been proud of LSU's effort. The Lady Tigers never quit, despite being down by double-digits in each half.
UConn seemed to be taking command when Moore hit a 3-pointer to give the Huskies a 53-43 lead. Shortly after, however, Erica White made a driving floater, Chaney followed with a 3 and White converted an end-to-end driving layup to ignite a 12-0 run. Chaney capped it with a driving layup along the baseline to give LSU a 57-55 lead with just under eight minutes to play.
Moore then came to the rescue for UConn, snapping the run when she kissed a short jumper off the glass to tie the score. A few minutes later, she pulled up without hesitation for a transition 3, then skipped back toward the defensive end as it swished through the hoop to give UConn a 65-61 lead.
LSU would not lead again, getting no closer than 67-66 on Allison Hightower's jumper with 2:34 left.