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UConn has Maya Moore, and a lot of youth
But this season is different. As the senior All-American tries to help extend the Huskies 78-game winning streak and put them in position for a third consecutive national title, there will be no older star to help her. No Renee Montgomery. No Tina Charles.
This year, Moore is the elder statesman.
She and junior guard Tiffany Hayes are the only returning starters on a squad that will include five freshmen.
“This is what happens,” Moore said. “People graduate, and they move on. The biggest thing with me is I’m going to have to work smarter this year. I’m going to have to get to the foul line more, I’m going to have to take care of the ball, rebound more.”
Moore averaged almost 19 points and more than eight rebounds last season in guiding UConn to a 39-0 record and a seventh national championship. If she keeps up those numbers, she could end her career as UConn’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder.
Her role this season is being compared to the one Diana Taursi filled in leading UConn’s 2002-2003 team, after the departure of stars such as Sue Bird, Asjha Jones and Swin Cash.
But Auriemma hopes Moore isn’t using Taurasi as a measuring stick.
“If Maya’s goal during the next seven months is to be the greatest player in the history of UConn basketball, I think that’s misguided,” he said. “If her goal is to make sure that we have the best team in the country, then the rest will take care of itself.”
The Huskies open Nov. 14 against Holy Cross, but then play No. 2 Baylor on Nov. 16. The Huskies also have LSU and Ohio State before Christmas, and Stanford, Duke and Oklahoma later.
If they can get past the Buckeyes without a loss, they will play Florida State on Dec. 21 with a chance to break the UCLA men’s record of 88 consecutive wins.
Auriemma said that is not a big team goal, and he is on the record as saying he expects the Huskies to lose this season.
“Each year, our goal is to win six games in a row in March,” he said. “If the record was that important to me, we wouldn’t have the schedule that we have.”
Moore was expected to have more experience around her. But UConn lost junior guard Caroline Doty to a knee injury in the offseason.
Hayes scored 25 points in the Huskies first exhibition game, and UConn does return other talented players, including senior point guard Lorin Dixon, and junior guard Kelly Faris.
But the freshmen, especially center Stefanie Dolson, guard Bria Hartley and forward Samarie Walker are expected to play key roles.
“We have to get contributions from everybody,” Moore said. “It is a new year. The old teams, the old history is gone. This is what we have. Everybody is going to come in and bring something. We can’t just depend on the reputation of the program.”
By Tom Fitton
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