- Mechelle Voepel, espnW.com
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Geno was being Geno on the Big East teleconference last week. Asked for his prediction on who would be the league's player of the year, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said his freshman, Maya Moore, should get the honor. But he was absolutely sure she wouldn't.
Why not? He said because coaches, who vote on the award, wouldn't do the "right" thing but instead the "expected" thing.
"Coaches are creatures of habit," he said, "and they'll want to reward a senior or junior."
Unfortunately, he's probably right. However, maybe UConn's 74-69 victory over LSU on Monday was enough to tip the scales toward Moore for some of the league's coaches. As if facing Moore wasn't already enough to do that.
In an entertaining game in Baton Rouge, No. 1 UConn just had a little more because of Moore. That was the edge the Huskies needed over an LSU team that will want to examine why it has had lags in stretches against both Tennessee and UConn.
LSU rallied and overtook Tennessee in a big way, but it couldn't conquer UConn. Moore had 29 points and five rebounds, while Tina Charles had 18 and six. Kaili McLaren had a nice night, too, with 11 points and a team-high 12 rebounds.
Moore has the presence of a great player already. One more reason for folks to rue Tennessee ending its regular-season series with UConn is that we might not see Moore versus Candace Parker in a college game.
It could still happen in the NCAA Tournament, of course. But if it doesn't, it will be a shame. Because it's the type of matchup sports memories are made of: "Remember that first battle between Parker and Moore?"
But speaking of the NCAA Tournament, Auriemma also cautioned before the game with LSU not to focus too much on the result.
"We went down to LSU last year and beat them, and they came back and beat us when it counted," Auriemma said, referring to a 72-71 UConn victory last February and then LSU's 73-50 win in the Elite Eight last March.
"I just don't know what one particular game means over the long haul when it's all said and done. You can see different aspects in the game where you say, 'This was good. This was not so good. We've got to fix this.' [But] I don't know that the outcome of the game is going to be so telling and transparent that you'll be able to see what's coming down the road."
In terms of what needs to be "fixed," LSU, as mentioned, will examine how it fell behind by double digits in the first half and then again in the second. Center Sylvia Fowles finished with 26 points and 11 rebounds, while Quianna Chaney had 22 points, with six 3-pointers. But Ashley Thomas and Allison Hightower have to provide more offense in big matchups than they did Monday.
Chaney missed what could have been a game-tying 3-pointer at the end, but the fact that LSU had that chance reflects something Auriemma is sure to want to address. As good as UConn looked for most of the night, the Huskies appeared a bit rattled offensively in the last minute.
Certainly, a lot of that is because of LSU's defense. But turnovers in late-game situations drive Auriemma nuts.
He won't go totally crazy, though, if Moore doesn't win Big East player of the year. He's expecting it. But it will get under his skin.
UConn will play in another Big Monday game next week when it faces Rutgers for the second time this season. Expect Moore to again put forth plenty of evidence why she should be the Big East player of the year.
Not that she really needs to keep making a case. It's made.
Mechelle Voepel of The Kansas City Star is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
18dBonnie D. Ford