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Tuesday, March 29, 2011
UConn shows its winning ways

PHILADELPHIA -- There was Maya Moore, the Philadelphia Region's most outstanding player, celebrating on the court once again with a team that always seems to find its way to the winner's circle.

With a 75-40 win over Duke on Tuesday, the Connecticut women join the men in the Final Four for the third time since 2004. It is Moore's senior year, and she and fellow senior Lorin Dixon, a player who came off the bench to be named to the all-tournament team, hugged on the court after the trophy presentation.

Over the past 15 years, UConn women's basketball has morphed from the Bad News Bears into the Yankees. And in this NCAA regional final, the Huskies made the No. 2 seed Blue Devils look quite unlike a team that's lost only three games all season.

Coach Geno Auriemma knows the Huskies' dominating win over Duke means another week of -- as he put it -- his smart-ass answers to smart-ass questions, and more opportunities to provide bulletin board material like this.

"One thing is the absolute truth: There's only one team right now that knows how to win a national championship," Auriemma said. "There's only a couple kids in America that are playing next weekend that know how to win a national championship, and I'm fortunate enough to have them on my team. So when things have to get done, they know how to get them done. That doesn't mean they're going to get it done, but they know how to handle those situations."

Here are a few facts from Tuesday's game. Kelly Faris had no idea Moore had scored her 3,000th career point. Faris, who will head back to her home state of Indiana for the Final Four, saw the crowd get to its feet when Moore scored late in the second half.

"I think I was the only one who didn't realize we were cheering for that," Faris said. "I thought everybody was just really excited for her that at that point, we realized, all right, we have this game in the basket and she gets to [continue] her senior year. And then I found out later when I was sitting on the bench that [was] her 3,000th point, so then I congratulated her."

Unlike Moore, Dixon hasn't been the go-to player. Auriemma puts it bluntly.

"If you would have told me Lorin Dixon was going to have an impact on us winning any big games, I would have said you're crazy," he said.

But over the past few weeks, her performance in practice precipitated what she was able to do on the court this weekend, which included making the all-tournament team.

"And she deserved it; I would have been disappointed if she didn't make it," Auriemma said.

UConn is the only school to have a team in the women's Final Four, the men's Final Four and a BCS football game in a single academic year. Although the relationship between Auriemma and men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun isn't exactly cozy, that doesn't seem to get in the way.

"Everybody was just screaming up and down the hallways for them when they won," Faris said. "... We were all excited for them and proud of them because they've obviously shocked everybody with where they've come from. I know it went though all of our minds, though: OK, they made it; it's our time and our turn to do the same thing."