Blogs > Elm City to Eagleville

A blog on UConn women's basketball.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Jefferson steps up on defense in UConn's win

In the eyes of Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw, Morgan Tuck was the 'x' factor in UConn's 91-81 victory.

In my opinion (and my game story indicated as much), it was the defense of Moriah Jefferson that turned the tide in UConn's hard-fought victory.

Notre Dame freshman Marina Mabrey had one of the most impressive offensive performances I have seen for an opposing player against UConn - for a half.

Mabrey was 9 of 11 from the field including 3 for 3 from 3-point range en route to 21 points by halftime.

When UConn coach Geno Auriemma went into the locker room, he sarcastically asked for any volunteers to try to keep Mabrey under 50. Jefferson not only accepted the challenge but held her to just two points.

"She was making everything, she was being really aggressive and really physical. I wanted to take her, limit her touches and face-guarding her," Jefferson said.

Her performance reminded me a little bit of the job she did a season ago on Tiffany Mitchell in a win over South Carolina.

"I think they are two different kinds of players but at the same time you can't let them get the ball," Jefferson said. "Once they get the ball, they are really dangerous threat so I tried to do my best to make her back pedal. It started with that and then I knew 'I've got you.' I love defense and I take a lot of pride in my defense. I just wanted to make sure I could do whatever I could with my team to help them to make sure she wasn't getting the shots."

Mabrey finished with 23 points but after halftime she attempted just two shots (none from the 3-point line) and had three turnovers.

"She is a great defender," Mabrey said. "I've never gotten that before in college so it is something I have to work on."

Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck have known Breanna Stewart for years, have practiced alongside of her for the past four years so when they are almost speechless after one of her plays, it is noteworthy.

In the first half Stewart saw a ball coming off the rim and she went in pursuit of the offensive rebound. However, the ball hung up on the rim a little longer than anticipates so while she was being fouled she swooped in and came up with one of the most remarkable plays I've seen.

"It was the best play," Tuck said. "It was one of those plays that you are on the court playing and you are like 'wow, only Stewie can do that.'"

Jefferson admitted that the other players on the court sort of just stood and watched Stewart do her thing.

"We were talking about that play in the locker room," Jefferson said. "Everybody just kind of stopped and stared and said 'what is going on?' I thought she was going to dunk it. She touched the rim, it was a great play. She plays really hard anytime she is attacking like that and getting offensive rebounds, she is going to be way above the rim and it is just a matter of whether she finishes it or not."

So what was Stewart's take on a play that is sure to be shown when she is taken in April's WNBA draft and perhaps multiple times before that time.

"I was just trying to put it back," Stewart said. "My hand touched the rim and I was like 'uh oh.' The one thing I thought of was first of all, 'I am OK and I hit the (floor) hard and the basket went in.'"


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