Jefferson earns a start in the Big East Tournament
Published: Sunday, March 10, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 10, 2013 22:03
As long as she’s been healthy this season, fifth-year senior Caroline Doty has started for UConn and after a few minutes has gone to the bench where she stays for the better part of a typical contest.
Last night, instead of Doty, freshman Moriah Jefferson started for the Huskies in their 94-61 blowout against DePaul.
If one were to ask coach Geno Auriemma what accounted for the modification to the starting lineup, he would give two answers: an easy answer and a tough answer.
The easy answer is about as stereotypical a coach answer that one could come across. Jefferson gave the Huskies a favorable matchup against a DePaul team that is very talented offensively.
“It’s a fun offense to watch if you don’t have to coach against it,” Auriemma said of Doug Bruno and the DePaul Blue Demons.
Having Jefferson on the court makes the Huskies a better team defensively, plain and simple. With Jefferson on the floor, UConn is able to establish better full court pressure defense thanks to her speed agility.
Then there’s the tough answer: the freshman point guard is going to have bring her A-game in a spot when UConn is in a pinch.
This season is nearly at the point in which Auriemma will not have the chance to put Jefferson into comfortable spots so that she can work her way up to a bigger stage.
“If you put her in, you bring her in off the bench and when we’re winning, that’s easy,” Auriemma said after the win. “If you bring her in off the bench and we’re struggling, that’s difficult on her as a young freshman and that’s what happened in the Notre Dame game.”
He said that rather than choosing between two extremes—admitting that neither of them really accomplish anything—he wanted find a happy medium. That happy medium was a starting role in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
At the beginning of the game, Auriemma said she was “Ehh....okay.”
After a while, however, she sat on the bench for a little bit and went back on the court. It was after the rest period that Auriemma said she played really well.
Jefferson finished the game with 12 points and three assists on 5-9 shooting, including 2-3 from beyond the arc.
She officially found out about the starting nod a little bit before gametime and she said that she felt good about the chance she was getting. Jefferson said she wasn’t nervous, but rather felt composed and really wanted to go out and do what she knows how to do: drive to the basket and play aggressively.
“I have to be ready and available for my team any time they need me,” Jefferson said.
So how much does her team need her? It’s a complicated question.
Geno admits that it’s impossible to win a tough game purely by the will of a freshman point guard, since freshmen point guards who know how to stabilize an offense that’s struggling are hard—if not impossible—to come by.
“I don’t know any freshman point guard in America who does [that],” Auriemma said. “There is not one team playing for a national championship, I think, that has a freshman point guard, because it’s hard.”
However, Auriemma wants her to respond to tough spots, not with a mindset that she’ll save a sinking ship, but with a mindset that she’s going to attack the basket and contribute whatever she can.
Geno sees the point when Jefferson dominates a tough game as one that’s a year or two down the line. But the point when Jefferson can come on in a tough spot and give a meaningful contribution...that could come as soon as Tuesday.