As the Lynx limped through the worst stretch of her career, maybe the worst stretch of basketball she had ever experienced, Maya Moore summoned reminders from past coaches.
Chin up. Shoulders back. “Fix your face.”
Tuesday night, Moore scored 20 points or more for the fifth consecutive game as the Lynx won their fifth in a row, swamping a good Seattle team 91-79 at Target Center.
Moore finished with 32 points, seven rebounds and three assists, this homage to her past dominance followed a conversation Tuesday afternoon in which she remembered the rare losing streaks in her life, most of which occurred in elementary school.
She has done nothing but win — in high school, college, overseas, in the WNBA and in the Olympics — for a long time now, so when the Lynx started the season 3-6, she admits to feeling distraught.
You probably didn’t notice, because she kept her chin up, her shoulders back.
“In middle school, I’d miss a shot or make a mistake, and my coach would tell me, ‘Fix your face,’ ” she said. “I was like, ‘Fix my face?’ And I started to become more self-aware. Oh, right, I can’t pout and be out here looking super frustrated, because that doesn’t help my team and it lets the other team know that they’re getting to me.”
Playing for Geno Auriemma at UConn reinforced that. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve provides reminders.
“Playing at UConn, it’s harped on so much there,” she said. “Body language, and how you’re responding to adversity. I brought that with me here, and it’s something Cheryl reminds me of. It’s easy to get frustrated at this level, when there are so many hard things, so many challenges. Just knowing that sometimes you’re just a couple of plays away from the momentum swinging back in your favor — it’s something I try to do.”
Reeve notes that Moore can make a mistake and immediately move on to the next play. Setting her shoulders is her physical cue.
“That’s intentional,” Moore said. “That’s something that was taught, as far as me being aware that how I look on the court matters, and me wanting to be a leader in that way.”
She had never been asked to lead a losing Lynx team before. “It was uncharted territory,” Reeve said. “I hadn’t seen her in a stretch where we lost six times in nine tries. It was the first time experiencing that with her, and her first time as a pro experiencing that. I told her the thing I enjoyed the most was what a great teammate she was through all of it.
“Her response to that was to give more of herself, to do more in terms of connecting, talking, not feeling like she had to take over the team basketball-wise, but being more of a problem-solver. She helped us stay together. I think they were really proud of themselves during that time.
“We kind of expect it, because they’re good people, but you never know. And Maya was at the forefront.”
Entering Tuesday’s showdown with Seattle, Moore had won the Western Conference player of the week award, having averaged 21.8 points and 4.3 assists per game. Tuesday, she posted her first 30-point regular-season game since July 7, 2016.
“I was always athletic,” Moore said. “I was always one of the best girls out there, but I played up in AAU, so I wasn’t always the tallest. I started out as a point guard because I was playing up. Basketball started to get a little more serious for me around 12, and so since then I’ve been on really good teams that haven’t had losing records.
“But I know the process of working and trying to overcome challenges. Especially after going to Connecticut, where you can be on the winning squad and Coach will switch you to the losing team in the middle of a drill. You’d have to find a way to come back and win, anyway.
“That’s the nature of winning, is knowing how to overcome challenges.”
She would know.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MNSPN.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org