Sophomore point guard Moriah Jefferson did not look like herself early on at Temple Tuesday. UConn coach Geno Auriemma thought she was playing too fast so he removed her from the game for a few minutes to give her an opportunity to regroup.
What Jefferson really needed was to use her Proventil inhaler. Not only has she been coping with asthma since was 6 or 7, but she was also coping with a cold against the Owls. She said she uses her inhaler once a game. Tuesday it again worked wonders.
“ It’s just like when I feel my chest closing I want to try to take it before and just to prevent anything,’’ Jefferson said. “Now I have a cold so as soon as you start running it closes up immediately. So you have to try to get (the medicine) in. But it’s nothing that’s too big of a deal. I’m fine.’’
Once Jefferson returned to the floor at McGonigle Hall she produced one of the best performances by a guard in team history, finishing with a career-high 12 assists and two turnovers in 30 minutes. She had six assists and no turnovers in 13 minutes in the second half.
Five of Jefferson’s assists came on hoops by Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis. Four came on hoops by Breanna Stewart and three on hoops by Bria Hartley.
“I wish I didn’t have those two turnovers,’’ Jefferson said. “But the 12 assists felt great.’’
Jefferson finished one assist shy of the team single-game record of 13 shared by Renee Montgomery (vs. Oklahoma Nov. 30, 2008), Laura Lishness (vs. Seton Hall Jan. 12, 1991) and Susie Sturman (vs. Vermont Feb. 24, 1980).
Jefferson is also one of eight UConn players to record as many as 12 assists in a game. This list also includes Sue Bird, Jill Brumbaugh, Diana Taurasi and Pam Webber.
“I would have to give (the credit) to my teammates, honestly, because they’re the ones knocking down the shots,’’ Jefferson said. “I’m just finding them when they’re open and then they’re putting them in, especially Stewie last game. And then Bria doing a great job running in the lanes, throw it up ahead and she gets layups. So I have to give all the praise to my teammates for that.’’
Jefferson said that she dealt with asthma attacks as a freshman in high school, but since her junior year she has not had any problems.
Three years later, Jefferson is a blossoming star for UConn. Entering Saturday’s game at Cincinnati she is averaging 9.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and team-highs of 5.3 assists and 2.9 steals in 28.7 minutes this season. She has totaled at least five assists in a career-high seven straight games (7.1) and her overall assist to turnover ratio is 3.3 (117:36) in 631 minutes.
“For some people asthma’s a huge deal, and it used to be when I was younger,’’ Jefferson said. “But I kind of grew out of it. So now it’s not as big of a problem as it used to be.’’