SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - UConn senior guard Bria Hartley (North Babylon, N.Y.) and sophomore guard Moriah Jefferson (Glenn Heights, Texas) have been named among 22 finalists for the 2014 Nancy Lieberman Award as announced by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday morning. The award is bestowed annually on the top point guard in women's NCAA Division I college basketball. From this list, the candidates will be narrowed down to five finalists in March and the winner will be announced at the NCAA 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 it the 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.
The red-hot play of Bria Hartley helped the senior guard continue on as a finalist after being named to the watch list in January. Overall this season Hartley is averaging 16.3 points per game and 4.3 assists per contest. In the last two months alone her numbers have been phenomenal. Hartley has hit double-digit points in twelve consecutive contests dating back to a 19 point performance against Temple on Jan. 11 in which the senior set a career-high with 11 assists and recorded her first-ever double-double as a Husky. Over that twelve-game span she has averaged 20 points and 3.8 assists, shooting 51.5 percent from the floor and 44.5 percent from 3-point range. On two separate occasions Hartley has racked up American Athletic Conference Player of the week laurels, taking home USBWA National Player of the Week honors on Jan. 21 after setting a career-high with 30 points against Rutgers.
Against Central Florida on Feb. 19, Bria Hartley became just the third Husky to reach 1,500 points/500 assists/500 rebounds, joining the ranks of UConn greats Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi.
Moriah Jefferson appears on the Lieberman Award radar thanks to a breakout sophomore season in which she has emerged as a key starter in the UConn lineup. Jefferson averages 10.1 points and leads the squad with 5.3 assists per game and 2.6 steals per contest. Her 147 helpers lead the American Athletic Conference and her assists to turnover ratio of 3.1 ranks seventh in the nation. That ratio 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).
Jefferson has started every game of her sophomore season and posted career numbers in points, steals, assists and rebounds. In a complete 40 minute effort against No. 4 Louisville on Feb. 9, the sophomore recorded a career-high 18 points against the Cardinals in a rematch of the 2013 National Championship game. Jefferson continued her trend of playing stingy defense against some of the nation's top scorers, holding Louisville's Shoni Schimmel to 4-15 shooting. Texas native added another personal best against Temple on Jan. 28, dishing out a dozen assists for the fourth highest individual performance in program history. Her nine steals against Memphis on Jan. 22 fell just one shy of tying the program record.
Hartley and Jefferson have been crucial in pacing a Connecticut offense that leads the nation in assists (22.3 per game), assist to turnover ratio (1.93), and ranks second in field goal percentage (50.9). The UConn offense outscores its opponents by an NCAA-best 36.5 points per game, while the defense holds opponents to an NCAA-low 47.7 points per game.
The Huskies return to action in Dallas, Texas tomorrow evening at 8pm ET, when Connecticut faces SMU at Moody Coliseum in the squad's penultimate regular season road game.no comments