This year's Huskies are not invincible

032911-400-uconn
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma will be watching for an upset bid from Duke tonight. (Charles Fox/Staff Photographer)

With his team set to meet Duke on Tuesday night in an NCAA Elite Eight contest at Temple's Liacouras Center, Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma labeled the Huskies as more vulnerable than the squads that won back-to-back national championships in 2009 and '10.

They went undefeated both years. Currently, UConn is 35-1. What a difference a year makes.

With 111 wins in their last 112 outings, the only blemish on the Huskies record is a 12-point loss at Stanford on Dec. 30.

The winner of Duke-UConn moves on to the Final Four.

"We're vulnerable because you have to be able to do a lot of things well in the NCAA tournament to win a national championship," Auriemma explained. "The teams that are playing this weekend, and next weekend if you're fortunate enough to get to next weekend, have the ability to take you out of some of the things you do. And when they do, you have to have something to come back at them with.

"So that over a period of 40 minutes, everything they try to take away, there's something else that they can't. The last two years there was nothing anybody could do to keep us from winning."

One constant during the near-perfect run has been 6-foot forward Maya Moore, this season's Big East player of the year and the conference's all-time leading scorer.

She is the only senior in a lineup that includes 5-7 freshman guard Bria Hartley (12.4 ppg.), 5-11 sophomore guard Kelly Faris (7.9 ppg., 6.7 rpg.), 5-10 junior guard Tiffany Hayes (14.0 ppg.) and 6-5 freshman center Stefanie Dolson (10.2 ppg., 6.2 rpg.).

"This year, if Maya's not making shots, if Tiffany is struggling, it's difficult for us," Auriemma said. "We try not to make it seem that evident, and try to hide it. But we're not big, we get killed on the boards sometimes, and you're depending on two freshmen and a sophomore who have never been here before. Ninety-nine percent is because of Maya, and the one percent is coaching, so we all look good."

Moore, who is leading UConn with 23.3 points and 8.2 rebounds a game, put up 23 and 14 when the Huskies came from behind to register a 68-63 victory over Georgetown on Sunday in a Sweet 16 contest.

She accepts the responsibility of showing this collection of Huskies the way to another title.

"When you're a senior, you feel more invested and the most responsible," she said. "But you can't let that take away from the confidence that you have in your teammates. So I feel responsible, but I am also very confident about what my teammates can bring for this team."

What Moore and her teammates did when they hosted Duke in a regular-season game on Jan. 31 was register an 81-57 blowout that shook Blue Devils nation.

Auriemma was asked what he would tell his team were it on the receiving end of that whipping, with a rematch coming up.

Duke is 32-3.

"I would just tell them the truth," he said. "There is no way that Connecticut can play better than that night, and there is no way [Duke] can play as bad as we did that night. That's the truth, and what happens from there, happens."

 


Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at (215) 854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.