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Stealing the show
Felicia Barron leading offense and defense to second place in NEC
With Quinnipiac being in the small, mid-major Northeast Conference, it is not very often you will see a player from the NEC leading a major statistical category in the NCAA, especially with the season two-thirds of the way through.
But Felicia Barron is the exception.
Barron leads the nation in steals per game (4.57) and has 96 steals total this season. She is also tied for the most steals in a single game this season when she had 12 against Bryant on Dec. 3, which was the most for a single game in program history.
“It still hasn’t hit me yet,” Barron said. “I’m still trying to believe that. I’m very humble, I just go out and try and play my game everyday. It’s just an amazing experience to get all these steals so its a really good accomplishment.”
Barron, a redshirt junior, has always considered herself a defensive player. Last season as a sophomore she had a team-high 63 steals. She credits her aggressiveness on the defensive side of the ball and being blessed with long arms as the primary reasons for her success this season.
“I’m a very good on-ball defender. I’m good at anticipating where the ball goes,” Barron said. “And I have long arms. So it helps me get a lot of steals.”
Barron’s time at Quinnipiac has not always been as smooth as this season. Barron did not play a full season until last year as a red-shirt sophomore.
During her freshman year Barron only played in eight games before missing the remainder of the season with a knee injury.
The following year as a red-shirt freshman, she only played in 11 games before having her season end abruptly with another knee injury.
“I’m not used to sitting on the bench, I’m used to contributing to my team in every game,” Barron said. “This year I’m healthy, my knees are fine, I’m just back to my normal self that I was freshman year.”
This season is her first season playing without braces on her knees, and head coach Tricia Fabbri said it has been a noticeable difference.
“She said in the summer time soon as she took the knee brace off she was so much faster,” Fabbri said. “To be able to be number one in the nation I don’t think that’s something you could ever predict. She came back even faster after those knee injuries.”
Barron’s impact goes beyond just her defensive performance. She is also an offensive threat for the Bobcats, averaging 17.6 points per game, second in the conference.
“She gives us a great opportunitiy to be really opportunistic from defense into offense with really easy scores,” Fabbri said. “And her ability to score and shoot the ball as well as she does. We’re having a good year because she’s having a fantastic year. She’s really having a Player of the Year type season.”
Barron has also been an integral part in shaping the team’s identity as a defensive-minded team.
In Saturday’s game vs. Wagner, Quinnipiac stole the ball on Wagner’s first four possessions, two of them by Barron, and scored eight points in the first 1:42.
Barron’s performance and leadership has also helped lead the Bobcats to a recent six-game winning streak and has them in second place in the NEC just one game behind Sacred Heart.
“You need everybody rolling in the same direction,” Fabbri said. “With her, what she’s able to do on the floor we’re just following her defensive intensity. She’s such a tremendous lift for us and when she’s putting the ball int he bucket, we’re really tough to beat. When you have a player of that caliber be able to go out and play so hard on both ends of the ball and be so productive it really makes it easy for everybody to follow and really fire up with her playing ability.”
While Barron is still waiting for it all to sink in that she is the NCAA leader in steals per game, her focus remains on one thing: making the NCAA Tournament.
“We have great team chemistry this year,” Barron said. “Our defense is better than years before. That’s how we win our games. We start with defense first and the offense will come to us. If our defense is down pat we’ll win every game by 30.”