Maya Moore wins WNBA MVP award

Add another big honor to Maya Moore's very full trophy case. The Minnesota Lynx forward has won her first WNBA regular-season MVP award, the league announced Thursday.

Moore will receive the award before the Lynx host San Antonio in the opener of the Western Conference semifinals on Thursday night.

"It's a great feeling to be recognized for all the hard work that I've put in," said Moore in a phone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday night. "I think of all the people who have helped me in my journey as a basketball player. They should be recognized with this award. It means so much to have the respect of the people who watch the game and love the game."

Moore received 35 of the 38 first place votes, followed by Phoenix's Diana Taurasi and Atlanta's Angel McCoughtry. Los Angeles' Candace Parker was fourth and Phoenix's Brittney Griner finished fifth.

"When she was a senior in college, Geno (Auriemma) described Maya to be similar to a shark, where if you punch her in the face, she goes away. I'm really proud to say that you can't punch Maya in the face anymore," Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve said. "She's going to make you pay. She's going to take the hit, she's going to get the layup. So that's been the evolution of Maya."

Moore, who turned 25 in June, is the first Lynx player to win the season MVP award and the third UConn graduate, following Taurasi in 2009 and Tina Charles in 2012.

Moore was the WNBA's leading scorer this season at 23.9 points per game. She had 12 games scoring 30 or more points, including a career-high 48 on July 12 against Atlanta.

Her prodigious point production was supplemented by her best rebounding average of her four-year WNBA career, at 8.1 per game. She also averaged 3.4 assists and 1.9 steals for the Lynx, who dealt with injury issues to two other starters during the season. That put even more on Moore's shoulders, but she proved capable of handling it.

Moore has never missed a game in her Lynx career, starting all 136 during the regular season and 24 in the playoffs. Minnesota won the WNBA title in 2011 -- when Moore was the No. 1 draft pick and rookie of the year -- and again in 2013. The Lynx also went to the WNBA Finals in 2012, when they lost to Indiana.

Moore's success in the WNBA follows a college career at UConn in which she won two NCAA titles, went to two additional Final Fours and was a key figure in the Huskies' 90-game winning streak. She also won gold medals in the 2012 Summer Olympics and the 2010 world championship. Moore is expected to be a top contributor for the United States team in the upcoming world championship, which begins in September in Turkey.

Moore was the MVP of the WNBA Finals last year, when the Lynx swept Atlanta for the championship.

Minnesota finished 25-9 this season and is the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference behind Phoenix, which went 29-5. The Lynx take on San Antonio in the West semifinals, with Game 1 at 9 p.m. ET Thursday (ESPN2) at Target Center in Minneapolis.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.