Playing good defense isn’t something that Janay Morton started doing once she got to college to help her get playing time.
The senior guard on the Nebraska women’s basketball team said her parents talked to her about playing good defense from a young age.
“They always said to take pride in your defense, and don’t let people bully you around out there on the court,” Morton said.
Morton’s dad even told her that when the player she was guarding had the basketball to think of the ball like a pork chop.
“So every time you see someone else with the ball you just got to think it’s a pork chop, and you got to go after it,” she said.
Morton has been a big part of the Huskers’ improved play from the bench this season, and that’s one reason why the Huskers have won 18 games and are tied for second place in the Big Ten Conference standings going into Wednesday’s game at Michigan State.
She may only play about 15 minutes per game, but Morton always seems to quickly make good use of her time. In Sunday’s win against Wisconsin, Morton made a three-pointer shortly after subbing into the game in the first quarter. She finished 3-for-5 on three-pointers in that game with nine points, three rebounds, one steal and one assist in 17 minutes.
Earlier in the season against Iowa, Morton made three three-pointers in the final two minutes of the first quarter in a win at Iowa, and scored 13 points.
When you may only play 10 minutes per game, you have to be as effective as you can in your time, Morton said.
“If you go into things thinking, ‘Ah, I’m only going to get 10 minutes,’ you’re defeated already,” Morton said. “Just go into it thinking I’m going to do what I can to be good.”
Morton has 13 steals in 17 games played. Each of those steals is a very rewarding feeling, Morton said.
“Sometimes you’re able to score, and it’s an easy fast-break layup,” she said. “But it also just earns another possession for your team.”
Morton joined the Huskers in the summer of 2016 after being a three-year starter at Eastern Michigan of the Mid-American Conference. She made the conference’s all-defensive team as a junior when she had 96 steals. After a coaching change there, Morton said she wanted a new experience and decided to transfer.
Nebraska coach Amy Williams and the NU assistants had previously recruited Morton when they were at South Dakota and Morton was playing high school basketball in Minnesota.
Last season was tough when Morton had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules, but she says the decision to join the Huskers has been worth it.
She had another setback in the summer when she had to have surgery on her foot due to an enlarged bone. Her return from injury wasn’t easy, but Morton said she kept putting in the work needed to improve.
Then she scored 10 points in a win at Illinois on Jan. 10, with all her scoring coming in the final 10 minutes of a close game. That’s when she said she felt like the old Janay was back, the Janay who had highs of 34 points and seven steals while playing at Eastern Michigan.
“When you come off of an injury, sometimes things just don’t go your way, and you’re still trying to get back into the flow of things,” Morton said. “And sitting out for a year on top of that, it had just been awhile since I felt that good.”
Williams has a lot of respect for what Morton has done this season coming back from an injury. Morton would have benefited a lot from preseason practice and the nonconference games, but she had to miss a lot of that time.
“She’s found a way to take advantage of the opportunities that are given to her,” Williams said. “She has done exactly what I’ve asked her to do, which is to earn minutes by playing great defense, and the offense will come. She’s embraced that, and she’s really key to why our team has made a surge.”