UConn's Freshmen Rush To Center Stage

Maryland is big. Maryland is tough.

"Stewie can't match up with them physically, so she has to be one step ahead, a little quicker, a little smarter and that takes time. Right away, from the Big East tournament, I saw a change in her. She was involved, not drifting away and hiding. She was more worried about failing than succeeding. It has turned in her head and she's in a really good place right now."

Jefferson, meanwhile, had a brilliant flash of a game.

"An X factor," Maryland coach Brenda Frese called Jefferson. "She made it really very difficult on Chloe Pavlech. "Defensively, her ball pressure took us out of anything we could. She was very aggressive. I thought her defense transferred to her offense."

Jefferson had hit double figures only seven times, but she has done it in two of the past three games. She might only be 5-7 and fairly slight, but she is a dart of speed. The way she pick-pocketed Pavlech on one score and later got her quick hands in to block big All-American Alyssa Thomas' shot was impressive.

"My life kind of flashed in front of my eyes with [Thomas] coming at me," Jefferson said, laughing.

Jefferson has been more assertive at practices, Auriemma said, yet at the same time has been under control.

"The problem when you're as quick as Moriah is, you don't always know what gear to be in, especially as freshman," Auriemma said. "There were a lot of times she was either going too fast or too slow and it has taken her kind of a long time to figure it out."

"I thought she was the difference in the game, defensively, offensively, creating."

Auriemma, despite a nimble attempt to block him from officials by Chris Dailey, took a technical late in the first half. As correct as he was in arguing a non-foul call on Tianna Hawkins against Kelly Faris, he ended up costing his team four points. Afterward, he called himself a "dumb ass." With that, he needs no further excoriating here beyond saying that he acted like a freshman.

Auriemma knows what's inside Stewart and Jefferson. He says there's no reason why they can't repeat this Monday night against Kentucky and maybe next weekend, too, in New Orleans. Delle Donne is Delle Done. The UConn freshmen are rushing the stage.

"They've played a lot of basketball in their young careers," Auriemma said. "They've played a lot of basketball where you lose and you're out. I think they understand that part of it. It's like when your mother used to get you up every day for school. She didn't have a choice. Maybe because they're in that same situation, they're responding the right way."

And maybe there's some history to be made.

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