By Carl Adamec
PROVIDENCE — Moriah Jefferson knew the way she had played the first two-plus months of the regular season wouldn’t be good enough anymore after the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team lost guard Brianna Banks to a season-ending knee injury at St. John’s on Feb. 2.
In the three games since Banks was hurt, the freshman point guard has responded.
Jefferson had a season high 13 points along with five steals Tuesday night as No. 3 UConn rolled past Providence 105-49 in Big East action at Alumni Hall.
“Moriah played great tonight,” UConn sophomore Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis said. “We want to make sure she stays under control and stays composed. The fact we’ve been able to get her a lot of minutes the past couple of games means a lot. It’s going to help us when we play at Rutgers Saturday or Baylor Monday. She needs experience. We have confidence in her and we need her to have confidence in herself.”
Jefferson was 6-for-7 from the floor in 23 minutes off the bench. She had only one assist but the offense looked crisp when she was running the show.
For the season she is averaging 4.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.8 assists in 17.0 minutes. Her 34 steals are second to Kelly Faris’ 64 on the team.
“I keep putting Moriah in the game with the hope she’ll do the things she did tonight on a regular basis,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She attacked more tonight straight up and down towards the basket than sideways. When she does that and is looking for her own shot, she ends up making plays for other people.
“It’s not easy for a freshman in our program. You have to be careful that you don’t come in and think negatively. That’s not going to help you be good. She’s trying to be more of a playmaker now as opposed to keeping the status quo. One of the things I talked to her about was we can’t have Bria Hartley and Caroline Doty operating at one level and her at a lower level. She has to match their level of intensity and their level of aggressiveness. I thought tonight for the first time since that stretch of games she played well in she had that look about her.”
And the Huskies liked what they saw.
“She’s getting better and better,” Faris said, “and it’s a good sign.”