It wasn't long ago that a UConn game against LSU ignited a huge spark in the college basketball season.
But this has not been a vintage year for the Tigers. There is no Sylvia Fowles or Allison Hightower to lean on. In fact, they had lost three times before Sunday's meeting with No. 1 UConn, enough disappointment to put "dang" back in the vocabulary of Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor.
So it's hard to say whether an 81-51 loss to the Huskies will do a lot for LSU's mind-set. But UConn did convey a message to Chancellor, a four-time WNBA champion and Olympic gold medal coach, and the 8,120 at Gampel Pavilion on the last day of the World Vision Challenge.
"If [the Huskies] don't instill fear in you, then you are an idiot," Chancellor said.
For a time, it seemed as if LSU (4-4) might put up a fight. The Tigers trailed by only 10 at the half. By the end, they joined the road kill club, victims of the 84th straight win for the Huskies (6-0).
"I didn't think we'd be able to guard them in the first half," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "There was a time in the first half when the assistants said we should play zone. We don't play zone, just man-to-man. But we weren't playing that, either."
UConn won its three games over the weekend against Howard, Lehigh and LSU by 134 points.
The Huskies travel to South Florida Thursday to open the Big East season, in anticipation of moving three wins from tying the UCLA men for the most consecutive victories in NCAA basketball history.
But there was history made Sunday. And gravity was once again defied by Maya Moore.
"She is a special player," Chancellor said. "She is one of the best to ever play the game."
She was acrobatic in scoring 26 points (11 of 18) to move within 22 of tying Tina Charles (2,346) for the program's career scoring lead. She scored one with her left hand, a reverse layup off a pass from Stefanie Dolson in the second half that shook heads.
"Honestly, I thought Maya would miss the pass because it was a bullet," Dolson said. "It was such excitement. She gives you the great feeling you get when you know everything works out in a play. When she made the layup, I was going crazy."
Moore also had 12 rebounds to become the fourth UConn women's player to 1,000 career rebounds (1,009). She is the third to have 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, joining Charles and Rebecca Lobo.
The milestone board came on the defensive end with 12:19 left in the first half.
"I think I am having fun," Moore said. "When I'm having fun, I'm usually smiling. laughing, into it and excited. … Now that I am a senior, I'm recognizing how special the program is and how good we have it here."
It was also a good day for Tiffany Hayes, who emerged from a semi-slump with 20 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Freshman Bria Hartley continued her fine play with 15 points and five assists.
"There were times when we left them open and they stepped up," Chancellor said.
Dolson, riding the seesaw in Auriemma's playground so far, played 17 minutes, scoring 11 points (4 of 7) with five rebounds.
This weekend, Dolson went from starting against Howard, to coming off the bench against Lehigh, to impacting the game against a traditional Southeastern Conference power. Her education continues.
"I wanted to prove to everyone that I belong on the court," Dolson said.
LSU was led by LaSondra Barrett (12 points) and Adrienne Webb (11). But they combined for just two second-half points.
LSU took a quick 5-0 lead, using the first of six first-half threes. The Tigers held the lead until Moore's first shot, an offensive tip, gave the Huskies a 10-9 lead with 14:42 left in the half.
At this point it appeared UConn was ready to take control. The defense keyed two major runs that finally gave the Huskies a 29-15 lead. But UConn was not ready to take control.
Four more three-pointers kept LSU within range as the half ended with UConn ahead 46-36.
The Tigers were 6 of 12 from three in the half, Webb making three to score her nine points. Barrett, a 6-foot-2 junior forward, was 5-for-10 in the half.
"But I thought our defense in the second half was unbelievable," Auriemma said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun