A 14-game winning streak and a No. 24 ranking are major accomplishments for coach Dawn Staley’s club. But the road wasn’t always this sweet for the women’s basketball team, and senior Ari Moore said she is glad to have witnessed the program’s success over the past four years.
“I’ve seen the program grow and develop into a top 25 program and I’m just grateful that Coach has allowed me to be on the team,” Moore said after Sunday’s victory over Xavier. “[Staley] saw something in me in high school.”
The Shaker Heights, Ohio, native learned what it took to be a leader early in her basketball career. In high school she led Regina High to the state championship in consecutive seasons. Now, the sport and recreation management major is trying to lead the women’s basketball team deep into the NCAA Tournament. Much of the Owls’ success relies on her ability to lead as one of two senior starters on the team.
“I’ve always been a bit of a vocal leader in the locker room and on the floor,” Moore said. “I want to show the young girls how it’s done and what it takes to be here.”
Moore’s impact is not always felt in the scoring column, but her contributions show up in other ways. Moore’s communication and intensity helps keep the Owls in check on the court. She is among the team leaders in minutes played and rebounds, and prides herself on being the Owls’ defensive specialist.
In the past three games, the Owls faced three of the top five scorers in the Atlantic Ten Conference. Sunday, Moore matched up against Musketeers forward Tara Boothe, the leading scorer in the A-10. Though Boothe reached her average of 18 points, those baskets didn’t come easily, Staley said.
“Ari’s done a terrific job on the three [big-time scorers] we’ve played this past week. I thought she did a tremendous job sticking with the game plan and not letting Boothe get comfortable and get shots,” Staley said. “She earned every point that she got and that was due to Ari focusing in on that challenge.”
“It’s not about offense all the time,” Moore said. “We’ve got great players in Candice Dupree and Kamesha Hairston who are going to fill that role.”
Moore delivered her best performances in the Owls’ two toughest games early this season. Against Tennessee and LSU, then the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation, respectively, she averaged 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Moore said she is willing to improve on her season averages of 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as long as they don’t have a negative effect in the win column. The figure she is most excited about is 14 – the number of consecutive games the Owls have now won.
“The streak right now is amazing. It’s unbelievable,” Moore said. “We’ve already done something at Temple that’s never been done before.”
Moore said she is confident the Owls can continue their success in the midst of conference play. They won’t see action again until Sunday, Feb. 6 at Duquesne, when she said the team can continue their perfect play.
“We’ve just got to stay focused, and we can’t overlook any opponent because that’s when it’ll bite you in your butt,” Moore said.
Donnell Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.