Jefferson A Star For Huskies In Season Opener Against Hartford

There were a couple of questions surrounding sophomore Moriah Jefferson entering Saturday’s season opener against Hartford at the XL Center. How would she respond in her first game as UConn’s newly minted starting point guard? How would she hold up physically after missing several days of practice and the exhibition finale against Philadelphia Tuesday due to a sprained right ankle?

Jefferson provided the answers the Huskies were looking for in emphatic fashion during an 89-34 win. She generated game-highs of 17 points (career-high), five assists and three steals in 25 minutes.

“I’m really pleased because you never know, especially being off for a couple days you can get out of shape that fast,’’ Jefferson said. “So I was trying to make sure that I was in shape and we came out and got our offense going nice.

“Definitely, it’s another confidence booster. If you come in and have a good game for the start of the season, and then of course I haven’t been playing, so it’s just like another check. I think it helped me out a lot as a point guard. I’m ready for the next game now.’’

Jefferson was 7-of-12 shooting from the field (1-of-1 3-pointers), scoring off the dribble, from the perimeter and in transition. And she did not commit a turnover.

“Given that she just started practicing towards the middle of the week I thought she looked really, really good,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I liked the fact that she made pretty decisions with the ball and didn’t make a lot of mental errors. And for a young guard that’s really a big key going forward. We know she’s a good ballhandler and she’s quick and she shoots the ball pretty well. But becoming mentally better and becoming more mature making decisions I think that’s a big step going into this week. Monday and Friday and Sunday are not going to be easy, obviously, and I think games like (Saturday) are a real confidence boost for her.’’

The Huskies host No. 3 Stanford Monday at Gampel Pavilion. They will then meet No. 8 Maryland and No. 13 Penn State on the road, Friday and next Sunday, respectively.

Jefferson said that she experienced some discomfort with her ankle against Hartford. But it was nothing that hindered her performance.

“I felt it. But adrenaline, you’re like, `Whatever, just go,’’’ Jefferson said. “It’s nothing that’s too bad. It’s just getting back on it and trying to keep it warm. As long as I stay warm then I’m fine.’’

Here are some thoughts from sophomore Breanna Stewart on Jefferson …

“I think Moriah from last year to this year is a lot different,’’ Stewart said. “I think that she’s more comfortable with her role on the team. I think that she knows that she’s the point guard. She’s the one that needs to have the ball in her hands most of the time, and I think that her knowing what’s going on on the court and what everyone else is doing on the court and who to get the ball to and when to shoot it and stuff like that, I think that her being able to realize that and figuring it out definitely helps. She’s able to read the game and read everyone on the court.

“I had confidence in her last year. But I think that she has more confidence in herself, and I think that just her demeanor out on the court makes everyone else on the team have more confidence in her too.’’