PHILADELPHIA — Make it one more Final Four for Maya Moore and Connecticut.
Moore had 28 points, including the 3,000th of her career, to lead top-seed UConn to a 75-40 win against Duke on Tuesday night
The Huskies are two victories away from winning their third consecutive national championship, matching the school’s own run from 2002-04 and Tennessee’s from 1996-98.
Next up for coach Geno Auriemma’s latest juggernaut is Notre Dame on Sunday in the national semifinals in Indianapolis. The two Big East teams are plenty familiar with each other, having played three times this season already. UConn won all of those matchups including a 73-64 victory in the Big East tournament championship game.
Once again rural Storrs, Conn. is the center of the college basketball world as both the men’s and women’s teams are in the Final Four. It’s the third time in the past seven years that both programs have advanced this far with 2004 culminating in dual titles.
Earlier in the day, Moore became only the second four-time All-American. She was a unanimous choice for the third consecutive year and has helped Connecticut to an unprecedented 149 victories in her stellar college career, while losing only three times.
Tuesday night she became only the seventh D-I player to reach 3,000 points. Southwest Missouri State star Jackie Stiles was the last in 2001.
Moore fell a bit short of achieving the school’s first triple-double since Laura Lishness had one in the Big East tournament title game in 1989. Moore finished with 10 rebounds and seven steals.
Auriemma continued his success in his hometown. The Hall of Fame coach made his first Final Four in 1991 after playing at the regional at the Palestra. In 2000, Auriemma’s team won its second national championship here.
Now the Huskies (36-1) are back in the Final Four for the fourth consecutive season and 12th time in the last 17 years.
The Blue Devils (32-4) faced questions leading up to the game on what they’d do differently than they did in a 36-point blowout loss to UConn on Jan. 31. In that game, the Huskies delivered an early knockout blow, scoring 23 of the first 25 points.
On Tuesday night, UConn got off to another quick start tallying 10 of the first 12 points. But this time Duke survived the early flurry, rallying back behind Shay Selby and Jasmine Thomas.
Selby’s back-to-back 3-pointers cut the deficit to 17-14 midway through the half. Duke still trailed by three before UConn threw the knockout punch.
The Huskies scored the final seven points of the half, once again keyed by Moore. She hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key and then ended the period with a baseline jumper that made it 30-20.
Moore had 13 points, nine rebounds and five steals by the break.
The Huskies scored 22 of the first 25 points in the second half to put the game away. Moore had six of the nine points in the spurt, including an acrobatic tip-in off a missed shot that made it 39-22 with 15:56 left.
Her jumper later in the burst gave her 21 points and the Blue Devils still had 22.
Moore broke the 3,000-point milestone on a fouline jumper with 3:45 left in the game. The record basket was a sigh of relief for Huskies fans as Moore had left the game a few minutes earlier after hitting the floor hard. She slowly got up and jogged over to the bench as Auriemma called time out.
After riding the stationary bike on the sideline, Moore returned to get the milestone points.
Thomas finished her stellar career at Duke with an off-game. The senior guard had 17 points to lead Duke, but was just 7 for 22 from the field.
The Blue Devils were trying to complete a sweep of the top two teams in the Big East conference. Duke knocked off DePaul 70-63 in the regional semifinals.
Duke and Connecticut met once before in the regional final when the Blue Devils came away with a 63-61 victory in 2006 before falling in the NCAA championship game to Maryland.
Monique Currie, who played on that Duke team, was in the crowd Tuesday night sitting behind the Blue Devils bench. She hit four key free throws down the stretch to seal that victory over the Huskies.
It was the only previous NCAA tournament meeting between the teams.
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