By Carl Adamec
WASHINGTON — Texas native Moriah Jefferson made her first trip to the nation’s capital when the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team visited Georgetown Wednesday night.
If the Huskies’ freshman guard turns in more performances like she did against the Hoyas, her chances of making a return visit — say, to the White House after the NCAA tournament — will improve dramatically.
Jefferson played a season high 27 minutes and had nine points, season highs of six rebounds and seven steals, along with two assists and no turnovers against Georgetown’s pressure defense as No. 3 UConn downed the Hoyas 75-48 in Big East action at McDonough Arena.
“Moriah Jefferson was the star of the day,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “For the whole game, Moriah was probably the most consistent player we had on the floor. When Moriah can play like that it creates an awful lot of good things for us. She can turn defense into offense pretty quickly. And if she’s making a couple shots … We saw the real Moriah Jefferson today and it’s only going to get better from here I hope.”
Jefferson came into the game averaging just 3.6 points and 1.6 rebounds. She had just 12 steals in her first 13 games. But she was the first player off the bench after Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis committed her second foul and the Huskies (13-1 overall, 1-1 Big East) had committed five turnovers in the first 2:50.
“I wouldn’t say that I’ve been waiting for a game like this,” Jefferson said. “I would say that I just haven’t been myself. If I play like that, if I play nervous, that’s not good for me or for the team. Tonight I tried to play a little bit differently than what I’ve been doing.”
Whatever she did work and the Huskies would love to see more of it.
“It was back to the old Moriah,” UConn senior Kelly Faris said. “I thought she had at least double-figure steals. She went out and just played and played her heart out and did what she does best. She got the hustle plays. And when we get steals and fast breaks that’s huge for us. When she plays like that it’s big for our team and what we can do offensively.
“Sometimes it takes a little bit to make something click. We’ve all been there. Moriah figured it out.”
Jefferson also had the opportunity to spend quality time guarding the nation’s leading scorer, Georgetown’s Sugar Rodgers.
The Hoyas’ senior finished with 23 points, three below her average, but was just 8-for-22 from the floor and had five turnovers.
“I want to try and be the defensive player on the team,” Jefferson said. “I came out and tried to disrupt people and get the ball out of the point guard’s hands. I knew Kelly would do a good job on Sugar so if we could take both those players out we’d be fine.
“I wouldn’t exactly say it was fun (guarding Rodgers). When you guard a good shooter like that you have to go, go, go, and not give her any room. That they trusted me to play with her is a good sign.”
If Jefferson can stay under control, she’ll earn more trust from Auriemma and with it more playing time moving forward.
“I have to learn my speed,” Jefferson said. “I can’t go 100 miles per hour, but I can’t go two miles per hour either. I have to find a balance where my team can be with me and we can get into an offensive flow.
“I had my head spinning, not focused on what I needed to do and just playing the game and having fun. Tonight, I stopped thinking so much and just played.”
And she played her best game of the season.