Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Heart to heart talk worked wonders for Moriah Jefferson

Moriah Jefferson sat there and watched as her teammates entered and exited the highly-anticipated game at Stanford.

As the Huskies continued to stifle the nation's top-ranked team with one of their best defensive efforts in recent memory, the freshman guard waited for her name to be called and waited and waited. It wasn't until UConn coach Geno Auriemma wanted to get Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis out of the game with the Huskies leading by 27 with 3:31 left to play that he put Jefferson into the game.

When the team met up again the next day for a practice in Oregon, Auriemma had a chat with his talented freshman.

"I remember at the Stanford game I asked her after the game when we came back 'is that why you came to Connecticut to fly out to Stanford, sit on the bench and watch everybody else play?'" Auriemma said. "She wants to play, she knows she is good enough to play but when you are getting in your own way it is hard. Right now she is not making a lot of shots which she is capable of doing. I think when that comes she will add even more. I am really thrilled for her. I think these last couple of games she has done what I thought she would do when we recruited her."

Jefferson has 11 steals in the last two games and has played more than 20 minutes in three of the last four games. It should be noted that each time UConn had registered a season-high 18 steals, Jefferson has played more than 20 minutes. She admits that sitting and watching for most of the Stanford game was an eye-opening experience and showed her that she needed to change some things.

"Any time you don't play in a game, you have to figure out what it is that you are not doing right so you do the right things so I can get into the games," Jefferson said. "As long as I am doing well on defense I guess I am going to play. (She is) just being more aggressive and not taking any plays off. You can't ever take a play off. I think you have to keep being aggressive.

"(Offensively) I am not there yet, but  I am getting there slowly and I have to keep playing the way I am and it will come."

The thing I have noticed about Jefferson is the way she swoops in and rips the ball away from an opponent when she has a steal. She did it in each of the last two games against Georgetown and Marquette.

"The big thing with Moriah is when you are that competitive and you are that little you have to use whatever advantage you have," Auriemma said. "Her advantage is quickness, she is quicker than anybody we play against - for the most part. What happens is kids get to thinking about what to do next, the quickness is gone and you are just like everybody else then. I would say in the last couple of games she has done less thinking and more reacting and playing on Moriah's part. She built on the first game and adding something in the Marquette game and hopefully that (continues)."

I've been meaning to ask Auriemma about who is the captain or captains of this year's team. I noticed that senior Kelly Faris is the only one who comes out to meet with the officials before the game but that doesn't mean she is a lone captain. Auriemma never came out and said that he has named a captain or captains but did address why Faris is the only one to have the pre-game conference with the officials.

"If anybody else thought they were entitled to it they would go too," Auriemma said. "It was like when I was coaching the Olympic team and I said 'five guys in white.' The five guys who were entitled to it went out there and the other seven stood there and said 'I am good with that.'"

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