Whether Maya Moore is the greatest player in UConn history is debatable. Arguments can be made on behalf of at least a half dozen others, all accomplished, memorable and iconic.
But when UConn records are revised following her graduation, Moore's name will rest on top of all the program's significant offensive ones.
Still, there have been times when Moore is less than usual, when the shots don't fall, when her personal beat doesn't have that strong bass line.
You know, when she plays like Maya Mortal.
Thursday night at the Sun Dome, Moore needed 22 points to tie Tina Charles for the UConn career scoring lead.
With limited touches, Moore shot 1-for-8 and scored only 14 points, 11 from the foul line, in 25 difficult minutes, after averaging 26.0 points in the first six games.
But her teammates had her back, helping the Huskies defeat South Florida 80-54 in the Big East opener.
"I've seen Maya do what she did today every day in practice," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I'm shocked by it. There's no one playing basketball you can't shut down if you decide to take them out of the game."
UConn scored 27 of its points from the foul line, in 36 attempts. Moore was 11-for-12.
"It was a weird game," Auriemma said. "It was hard to get a flow going with so many free throws taken. But we know others have to get involved."
The Huskies had five players score in double figures, led by freshman center Stefanie Dolson, who had a career-high 16 (6 of 8 shooting).
"I know I still need to rebound better," said Dolson, who had three in 21 minutes. "I need to be tougher inside. I need to rebound more being 6 feet 5. That's the base focus from here on."
Freshman Bria Hartley, who did not start, added 13, as did sophomore Kelly Faris, who was 4 of 6 with six rebounds,
Tiffany Hayes added 12 points and Samarie Walker had 11 rebounds in 18 minutes.
"If we're not having a great offensive game, it's important for us to know that we still have people that can contribute off the bench," Hayes said. "And we had a great team effort. We spread out of the points and the rebounds evenly."
The victory was the 85th straight for the Huskies (7-0) since their loss in this city to Stanford in the 2008 national semifinals.
Charles set the record last March 8 at Notre Dame, the same day she became the program's career rebounding leader. But it was always assumed to be a matter of time before Moore, a three-time All-American, surpassed her.
Now three wins shy of tying the UCLA men for the most consecutive victories in NCAA basketball history, UConn goes for No. 86 Sunday against Sacred Heart at the XL Center. Perhaps it will happen then.
While Moore fell short of the record, the night was memorable for a more important reason. For the first time this season, UConn's supporting cast took center stage and picked up the slack.
"They made it very difficult for us," Moore said. "It was a physical game and if teams want to play that way, you need to be ready for it.
"They tried to put a small player on me, tried to push with a low center of gravity. But I got some post-ups in the second half [which drew fouls]."
UConn built its 38-20 halftime lead without one Moore field goal. She scored four points, none after the two free throws that gave the Huskies an 8-0 lead with 17:04 left in the half.
"If you would have told me that at halftime Maya Moore would have four points and two fouls, I would have told you that the game would probably be a single-digit game and we would be within striking distance," USF coach Jose Fernandez said. "But that was not the case."
In the first half, Moore and Hayes combined to shoot 1-for-10 overall and 0-for-4 from three-point range. UConn's other players were 13-for-17.
Of the seven players used by Auriemma in the half, Moore was the only one without a field goal. UConn was led in the half by Dolson, Faris and Hartley, who each scored eight points.
The UConn defense was also a major factor. The Bulls (5-4), who were led by 20 points from Andrea Smith, missed their first 16 shots and didn't score from the field until 9:03 remained in the half. They ended the half 8-for-31, but 2 of 10 from three.
"You can't come out of the gate as poorly as we did," Fernandez said. "We dug ourselves a big hole."Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun