Coming into Tuesday night, Moriah Jefferson struggled against Notre Dame her entire career.
In six previous meetings with the Irish, she had just six points and shot an abysmal 13 percent from the field. But on Tuesday night in the national championship game, she put her struggles against the Irish behind her and played like she had the entire season.
Jefferson scored 15 points and had five assists as well as being a large defensive presence all game long as UConn defeated Notre Dame 63-53 to win their third straight championship and 10th overall.
Jefferson scored seven points in the first half on 3-of-9 shooting, and with the Huskies only leading by eight points at halftime, the junior knew she would be open in the second half.
When the moment called, Jefferson was there to answer. Her shots came when UConn needed them most. In the second half, as Notre Dame was trying to mount a comeback and save their season, Jefferson hit two big 3-pointers to put them ahead by nine points both times.
“They were coming at us and we knew we had to do something and they left me open and I knew that was going to happen coming out of half time the way I shot it in the first half, so I just stayed calm and stepped up and knocked in big shots in big moments,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson finished the night 6-of-15 from the field, but none were bigger than her two threes in the second half.
As clutch as she was on the offensive end, Jefferson said she really doesn’t play the game thinking about offense. As a point guard, she runs the team and looks for the best options for her teammates. Jefferson set the tone on defense for the Huskies tonight, getting the matchup up against All-American Jewell Loyd.
Loyd scored 10 points in the first half, but was limited to just two in the second half, as Jefferson and the Huskies held Notre Dame to a season-low 53 points.
“Jewell is a really good player so you have to try your hardest to not let her catch the ball so I really just tried to deny her and make sure she couldn’t catch it and send her back door to Kiah (Stokes) and Stewie (Stewart) who were right there to block it,” Jefferson said.
Jefferson’s quick feet and stingy defense held Loyd to 12 points on 4-of-18 shooting.
“I thought she made a couple of threes that hurt us and other than that, I think it was mostly her defense that really bothered us,” Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said.
Jefferson also had four steals Tuesday, putting her at 100 for the season.
From being a complete non-factor against Notre Dame earlier in December and really struggling her entire career against the Irish, Jefferson was happy to just get a win.
“We got the win, that’s all that matters,” Jefferson said. “If I scored zero points again tonight and I played defense the way I did then I would take that. It’s about winning championships and that’s what we did tonight.”