- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

ST. LOUIS (AP) - In a season in which the Connecticut women’s basketball team has run through its opponents, it’s no surprise the Huskies won both major individual awards.

Maya Moore became the second sophomore ever to win The Associated Press’ player of the year Saturday. She averaged 19.2 points and 8.9 rebounds to help UConn within two victories of the third undefeated season in school history.

Huskies coach Geno Auriemma, who has guided the team to five national championships, picked up his sixth Associated Press coach of the year award.

“It never gets old,” Auriemma said. “It’s really a credit to the coaches and players that I work with. Having really good players makes me look good.”

Auriemma has the best player in the country with Moore, who joined Courtney Paris as the only sophomores to win the award.

“There have been a lot of players that have been really good that have gotten this award in the past, but very few have gotten it at an early age,” Auriemma said. “It means she didn’t have to learn to work hard.”

The sensational sophomore is the sixth Connecticut player to be selected as the player of the year since the award began in 1995. Her name will now hang high above the Gampel Pavilion court in Storrs with opast winners Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters, Diana Taurasi, Jennifer Rizzotti and Sue Bird.

“It’s really humbling to be mentioned in the same group as them,” Moore said. “It really hasn’t had time to sink in, but it’s something that I know I will look back on down the road and enjoy.”

Moore was surprised to have won the award. Auriemma hadn’t wanted her to know beforehand that she was the recipient, hoping she’d have time to enjoy the moment. With her entire Connecticut team looking on at the ceremony, Moore graciously accepted the trophy.

“I wouldn’t be anywhere near the player I was without the people that I play with,” said Moore, who received 37 votes from the 45-member national media panel that selects the weekly Top 25. “I’m blessed to play with such tremendous individuals.”

Teammate Renee Montgomery finished second in the balloting with four votes.

Moore credited coach Auriemma for helping her improve.

“He always pushes me everyday to get better,” she said. “He has helped me attain levels that I didn’t know I could reach.”

Always the perfectionist, Auriemma helped guide the Huskies to a 37-0 record. They play Stanford (33-4) on Sunday night in the national semifinals.

Whether playing a ranked opponent or a lower-level team, UConn always was at its best. No team was able to come within single digits of the Huskies all season, and they beat eight ranked opponents by an average of nearly 30 points a game.

“It’s always coach,” Moore said. “He always has us ready to go and puts us in situations in practice that are harder than we would see in games.”

Auriemma, who also won the award in 1995, 1997, 2000, 2003 and 2008, received 27 votes. Auburn’s Nell Fortner was second with seven. Aaron Johnston, who led South Dakota State to the NCAA tournament in its first season that the Jackrabbits were eligible, finished third with five votes.

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