TAMPA, Fla. -- Maya Moore has been a winner at every level of basketball she's played at and she's done it all over the world. The 2011 University of Connecticut graduate and the reigning WNBA Most Valuable Player is one of only eight players to have won NCAA and WNBA titles and Olympic and FIBA world championship gold medals.
As Moore stood on the Amalie Arena court Tuesday night to watch the Huskies cut down the nets after their 63-53 national championship game win over Notre Dame, she just smiled when asked about the spirit and winning attitude of Breanna Stewart.
"That's what it's about," Moore said. "There could be a time where another team is deeper and better. But it's intangibles that these players carry themselves with, their attitude, their humility, their toughness. Breanna is a graceful leader and a gracious winner. She always gives credit to her teammates when it's due. You can tell that her teammates love playing with her."
Stewart had eight points, 15 rebounds, and four blocked shots against the Irish. She averaged 16.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 4.0 blocked shots in two games here to become the first player in NCAA history to be named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player three times.
Also Tuesday, the North Syracuse, New York, native became the third UConn player to win the Naismith Trophy as player of the year twice, joining Moore (2009, 2011) and Diana Taurasi.
In the discussion of the best players in UConn history, Stewart has to be in the conversation.
"I think all of us would judge ourselves by what we did with the group that we had," Moore said. "Breanna is someone who is absolutely maximizing the time that she has. The emotions she showed on the stage were very moving. She's had to grow as a leader. To watch how things have come together for her is amazing."
Notre Dame didn't make it easy for Stewart Tuesday night.
And with 8:04 left in the first half UConn fans were holding their breath when Stewart hit the floor and turned her left ankle. She was in pain as she made her way to the Huskies' bench and was attended to there by athletic trainer Rosemary Ragle, who escorted her to the end of the bench and re-taped the left ankle.
"Rosemary came up huge," Stewart said. "She taped me up as quick as she could then and she taped me again in the locker room at halftime."
Thanks to a media time out, Stewart missed only 1:21 of playing time, though UConn was outscored 4-2 in that span. She wouldn't come out again until 31.0 seconds remained and that was with a smile and to a hug from UConn coach Geno Auriemma.
"I knew that I was coming back in," Stewart said. "It hurt. I rolled it very nicely. I was going to try and stay in but I really couldn't put any pressure on it. I got re-taped. There's no way you're going to sit out in the national championship game."
Stewart finished the season averaging 17.6 points on 53.9 percent shooting from the floor, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.7 blocked shots.
She'll start her senior season with 1,960 points, 856 rebounds, 279 assists, and 288 blocks. And three national championship rings.
"We want four. My last year, my senior year, I want to go out on a great note," Stewart said.
Stewart has swept the major Player of the Year awards so far as she's been honored by the Associated Press, United States Basketball Writers, the WBCA (Wade Trophy), and the Atlanta Tipoff Club (Naismith Trophy). She is a finalist for the last major honor to be handed out -- the Wooden Award -- which will be presented Friday.