SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – Sophomore point guard Moriah Jefferson (Glenn Heights, Texas) has been named a finalist for the 2014 Nancy Lieberman Award, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced Wednesday. Candidates exhibit the floor leadership, play-making abilities and ball-handling skills of Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. As a sophomore, Jefferson is the youngest of the five finalists. The winner will be announced at the Final Four in April.
Since its inception in 2000, three Huskies have taken home the award a total of six times. UConn point guards earned the honors in the first five consecutive years of its existence, with Sue Bird earning the award its first three years (2000-2002) and Diana Taurasi receiving the accolades in the subsequent two years after Bird (2003, 2004). Renee Montgomery was the last Husky to net the award in 2009.
Moriah Jefferson is enjoying an impressive sophomore season that ranks right among some of the all-time Husky greats. Jefferson currently boasts a team-high 170 assists on the season, which ranks second-best among UConn sophomores behind Diana Taurasi’s 208 from the 2001-02 season. Moreover, her stellar assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.88, which ranks 12th in Division I, is on pace to shatter numbers posted by some of UConn’s most accomplished point guards in their respective sophomore seasons, including past Lieberman Award winners Diana Taurasi (2.51 in 2001-02), Sue Bird (2.00 in 1999-2000), and Renee Montgomery (1.72 in 2006-07).
After starting just two games in her entire freshman campaign, Jefferson has been in the starting five for every one of UConn’s 34 games and has played big minutes for the Huskies this season. Through the conclusion of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, which saw No. 1 UConn defeat No. 3 Louisville time to claim its 19th overall conference crown, Jefferson leads the league in field goal percentage (57.7), assists (5.0 per game), assist-to-turnover ratio (2.9) and ranks second in steals (2.6 per game). A spectacular regular season resulted in a First Team All-Conference nod by The American and saw her added to the Lieberman Award Watch List as a semifinalist in February.
Defensively, Jefferson helped UConn shut down some of the most prolific offenses in the nation. Jefferson and the stingy Huskies have only allowed opponents to shoot an average of 30.4 percent from the field and relinquish a mere 47.0 points per game, both of which rank first in the nation. Individual highlights include Jefferson’s defensive efforts on Odyssey Sims, the nation’s second-leading scorer. Against then-No. 7 Baylor on Jan. 17, Jefferson limited her fellow Lieberman Award Finalist to 4-of-25 shooting to help the Huskies seal the 66-55 win.
In addition to sporting league-leading numbers, Jefferson has also far outpaced her own career highs this season. The sophomore has set career numbers in points, assists, steals and rebounds entering the NCAA Tournament. In UConn’s first matchup against No. 4 Louisville on Feb. 9, Jefferson clocked a complete 40 minute game and netted a career-high 18 points against the Cardinals. The following week the 5-7 guard battled for eight boards against USF, representing the highest single-game rebound total of her career. On Jan. 28, the Texas native dished out a dozen assists against Temple for the fourth-highest individual performance in UConn history. Furthermore, Jefferson also threatened to break a single-game UConn record with nine steals against Memphis on Jan. 22 that fell just one shy of tying the program marker.
Jefferson and the Huskies enter the 2014 NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 seed in the Lincoln Regional. UConn (34-0) will face Prairie View A&M (14-17) in the opening round for the second time in the last three seasons. Tip time for the contest is slated for 8pm on Sunday, March 23 with national televised coverage on ESPN.
2014 Nancy Lieberman Award Final Five
Odyssey Sims, Baylor University
Jerica Coley, Florida International University
Brittany Boyd, University of California
Moriah Jefferson, University of Connecticut
Heather Butler, University of Tennessee at Martin
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