We had had heard so much about freshman point guard Moriah Jefferson prior to the start of the season. With her quickness, her playmaking ability and her decision-making, she was supposed to make an immediate impact for the Huskies.
Through the first 13 games that was not the case. Jefferson had scored in double figures just twice. She had not had more than three assists since generating five in the season opener against the College of Charleston Nov. 11. And she had produced more than two steals in a game just once (four vs. Colgate Nov. 28).
However, in a season-high 27 minutes at Georgetown Wednesday, Jefferson showed just how much of an impact she can make for the Huskies. She finished with nine points, two assists and also recorded season-highs with six rebounds and seven steals.
“Moriah Jefferson I thought was the star of the day,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I thought Moriah for the whole game was probably the most consistent player that we had out on the floor. When Moriah can play like that it really creates an awful lot of good things for us. She can turn defense into offense pretty quickly, and then if she’s making a couple shots that’s … But we saw the real Moriah Jefferson today. And she’s only to going to get better from there I hope.’’
What was also impressive about Jefferson’s performance is that she did not commit a turnover.
“I wouldn’t say I’ve been waiting (for a game like this),’’ Jefferson said. “I think that I just haven’t been myself. And if I play nervous and tentative it’s not good for me or the team. So (Wednesday) I tried to come out and just play a little bit different from what I’ve been doing.
“I think I just stopped thinking so much and just played. I didn’t really do anything different, anything different pregame or anything. I just calmed down, not trying to go so fast and just play my game.’’
With Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis in foul trouble, it was Jefferson who provided a spark off the bench in the first half. She totaled six points (3-of-5 FG), three rebounds and five steals in 13 minutes.
“Sometimes it takes a little bit just to have something click,’’ UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “And we’ve all been there. We’ve all done that. And she figured it out. She played her heart out and did what she does best. She got the hustle plays. She got the steals. She did really well.
“She has a huge impact when she does that. I’ve said it a thousand times. Our offense stems from our defense and when we get steals or fastbreaks or steals and fullcourt that’s huge for us. So when she plays like that it’s pretty big for our team and what we can do offensively.’’
Jefferson, a pest defensively, can be a game-changer for the Huskies in a reserve role. Just like fellow freshman Breanna Stewart. Jefferson’s effort against the Hoyas helped boost her confidence as well as clear her head. If she can carry it over to Saturday’s game at Marquette that would be another important step in the right direction.
“I had my head spinning and not focusing on exactly what I need to do and just playing the game and having fun like Coach says,’’ Jefferson said. “Any time you have a game like that and you come out and you get a lot of steals and play defense that’s how your offense comes. So, for me, that was a good confidence booster.’’