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A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Impressive start for UConn's Jefferson

There were times during an up and down freshman season that Moriah Jefferson didn't even recognize herself on the court and really couldn't figure out why she was playing more tentatively than at any other point in her basketball career.

When she returned to school for her sophomore season Jefferson was playing for a swagger that was rarely seen a season ago. Some of that was on display in Friday's exhibition win over Gannon especially early on.

Jefferson had two assists and a pair of free throws in the first 100 seconds and finished with 13 points, three rebounds, six assists and four steals in a 101-35 victory.

"There is no me being confused, looking at the coaches and say 'what should I do?'" Jefferson said. "It was just go out play and have fun with my teammates. It doesn't matter where I go, if I get caught I know Stewie (Breanna Stewart) is running to the rim, Bria (Hartley) is on the backside with a 3, Kaleena (Mosqueda-Lewis) and Stef (Dolson), it is just like you have unlimited options."

Jefferson's improved play has not been lost on her teammates and coaches.

"She is a lot better, she is more calm, she can see the floor a lot more and she pretty much runs the team on the court," UConn junior guard Brianna Banks said. "She is pretty much the energy of the team on any given day. Once you are a freshman you are a scared and you can't be like that to play here. That is what (assistant coach) Shea (Ralph)  tells us all the time, you can't be scared to play here."

UConn coach Geno Auriemma has said that Jefferson looks like a completely different player through the first couple weeks of practice.

"She's been pretty good for most of the days of practice, taking advantage of the things that she does well and that was evident tonight," Auriemma said. "She didn't shoot the ball from the perimeter which she has been shooting the ball well in practice but you can just see the confidence level she has been playing with. That is not something that she was able to do as this point last year."

If Jefferson's performance was a headliner the return of Brianna Banks was also worthy of star billing.

Banks had six points, six rebounds and two assists in 21 minutes. Her energy level was hard to miss as she was eager to make up for lost time after being sidelined since early February after suffering a season-ending knee injury.

"I am excited to finally  it the court again," Banks said, "I didn't know what to expect, I didn't know what was going to happen. I just knew I was going to play my heart out and be there for my teammates. It didn't come too quickly, I do take pride in the hard work I put in to get on the court and I am happy to see people notice."

The game's outcome was no longer in question but with the chance to try to get her team another possession, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis went flying over the press row table, taking out veteran sportswriter Ken Davis and obliterating the chair Davis was sitting in.

"I thought I could get the ball and save it in time," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "I thought I had tipped it and that is why I was trying to get it. By the time my momentum was there, I just kind of had to go into the table and lucky I fell on someone, lucky for me. It (the chair) is very broken."

Maybe Mosqueda-Lewis was extra motivated after receiving a good luck text from former teammate Kelly Faris but her teammates were not surprised to see Mosqueda-Lewis' hustle.

"That is how she has been playing in practice, a lot more hustle plays," Jefferson said. "Did you all see the chair, though? I couldn't help it, I laughed."

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