By Sam Draut–
Mariya Moore says her passing ability isn’t a gift or natural instinct, but sometimes its the first thing that comes to people’s mind when watching the sophomore move the ball around the floor.
She had a game-high seven assists to go along with a career-high 31 points in Louisville’s dramatic 92-90 comeback victory over NC State on Sunday to help clinch the Cardinals 11th-consecutive win.
When the pre-season ranked eighth team started the year 1-4 and dropped to 3-5 after an ugly loss to rival Kentucky, Moore knew the Cardinals could be a better team.
“We weren’t gelling as a team, there was a lot of 1 on 1, I wouldn’t say 1 on 1 trying to be selfish, but people we trying to play 1 on 1 to save us,” Moore said. “But, we should have been focused on coming together as a team.”
What better way to come together as a team than sharing the ball, which Moore has done better than just about everyone in the ACC.
The sophomore’s 93 assists are third most in the conference, but what maybe even more impressive is the position Moore plays to rack up the assist total.
A 6-foot wing, Moore is the only non-point-guard in the ACC’s top 10 assist leaders.
“In my 20 years, she sees the floor as well as, if not better, than any player that I have ever coached,” coach Jeff Walz said. “She understands spacing. She understands how to get someone open.”
“Mariya’s ability to see the floor and understand the game is what really separates her with her passing,” Walz said.
Despite dishing out 121 assists as a freshman and on pace to easily pass that mark this season, Moore is hesitant to say her passing ability is special.
“I feel like it is normal, people say it is a gift and I’m blessed with that, but for me it just seems normal,” Moore said. “It has always been that way, I feel like everyone sees it the way I do, but maybe I am more confident in my passing, I feel like other people see it, but they’re not sure if they can’t get it there.”
But, passing isn’t the only thing Moore does well on the floor.
Moore leads the team in made three-pointers and free-throws, while she second in scoring with 14.7 points per game. Her 46 made three-pointers the sixth most in the ACC.
As Moore continues to play, Walz knows teams will try to take away the three-pointer shot from her.
“Everybody is going to start to run her off the three-point line and that’s something that we have to be prepared for and she has to be prepared for,” Walz said.
Walz has worked with Moore on developing her game inside of the three-pointer line, specifically on mid-range pull-up jumpers.
“I have been focusing on pull-up jumpers, and also, if they are pushing me off the line, then I can dish to people who are open,” Moore said. “If they are running me off the line there is always someone else open.”
While Moore isn’t ever the quickest player on the floor, she is crafty enough to get to where she needs to be.
“I’m not the fastest, with that being said, I try to outsmart people,” Moore said.
She continues to work on her ball-handling skills and the use of her left hand.
Opponents have tried to force Moore to use her left-hand, but she is comfortable enough using it to take advantage of the scouting report.
Named the ACC Player of the Week on Jan. 4, Moore leads the Cardinals in minutes played and said the team picked up its intensity in practice during the 11-game winning streak.
“We have started to hold each other accountable,” Moore said. “So, it is starting to show up on the court.”
So, after the sluggish start to the season, Moore said the Cardinals have turned the year around by taking “one game at a time.”
One game, one play, one pass at a time, Moore and her teammates have worked back into the Top 25 and hold an undefeated 6-0 record in the ACC.