Huskies sink Pirates
Bueckers scores 23 points in Big East opener
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. — In its first game without injured freshman Azzi Fudd, UConn looked choppy, slow and unorganized to start.
Passes were dropped and shots were air-balled. The Huskies had no answer for Seton Hall’s quick offense.
Enter Paige Bueckers. Bueckers (23 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, five steals) once again took control and came to UConn’s rescue Friday night, sparking much-needed momentum for the No. 2-ranked Huskies.
UConn (4-1) defeated Seton Hall 74-49 to open Big East play.
Seton Hall (3-3) was without graduate senior Andra EspinozaHunter, who began her college career with UConn. The team announced before tipoff the guard/forward would serve a suspension for Friday’s game due to a violation of team rules. In her place in the Pirates’ starting lineup was junior Kailah Harris, a former high school teammate of UConn’s Aubrey Griffin.
Takeaways from UConn’s win over Seton Hall:
In a somewhat unexpected move, UConn coach Geno Auriemma pulled freshman Caroline Ducharme off the bench first to help his backcourt. However, things didn’t go smoothly, as Ducharme got called for a foul and air-balled a 3-pointer minutes after stepping on the court.
Whether it was freshman mistakes or UConn’s inability to match pace with Seton Hall, the Huskies struggled to build offensive momentum in the opening quarter. UConn was scoreless for over three and a half minutes while Seton
Hall led by as much as six.
About halfway through the first, Auriemma brought in sophomore Nika Muhl for Ducharme. The 5-foot-10 Croatian’s intense energy was immediately felt and brought a level of familiarity to the lineup of Bueckers, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Christyn Williams and Aaliyah Edwards (who all played various starting rotations with each other last season).
Thanks to nine straight points from Bueckers, UConn ended the first down by one to the Pirates. After a 16-4 run in the second gave UConn control of the lead, it was
Muhl’s steal-and-score play that gave the Huskies the halftime advantage of 39-23.
A SOMEWHAT IMPROVED FRONTCOURT
After being outrebounded in a loss to South Carolina almost two weeks ago, UConn went into Friday’s matchup needing a major improvement on the boards. The plan was derailed by Seton Hall’s small size. The Pirates’ 5-6 point guard Lauren Park-Lane wove in and out defenders and dished out assist after assist under the height of UConn’s bigs.
In the second quarter of Friday’s matchup, UConn’s bigs did just that. Sophomore Aaliyah Edwards stood her ground under the basket and fought after offensive rebounds and put-back baskets. Senior NelsonOdoda used her length to drain smooth jumpers over the heads of the Pirates. And it was Dorka Juhasz’s block on defense that sparked a 14-2 run and turned the pace over into the Huskies’ hands. At the half, UConn lead the rebound game 25-13 with Juhasz leading with six and Edwards with five.
Seton Hall came out of the intermission and again outpaced the Huskies on the court. The Pirates’ quick transition and speed in the key looked to have almost frazzled UConn’s frontcourt. Seton Hall answered every UConn bucket with one of its own. Pirates dove every which way for loose balls and rebounds while Huskies couldn’t react quickly enough.
While UConn’s bigs may have fixed the rebounding problem, they struggled when it came to quick defensive reactions and keeping up with the quick footwork of Seton Hall’s guards.
NOT EVEN NOSEBLEED CAN STOP BUECKERS
Bueckers’ nine straight points in the first quarter helped sparked UConn’s momentum and gave way to the Huskies outscoring the Pirates 23-8 in the second quarter. Her jumper at 6:46 in the fourth broke a 7-0 Seton Hall run. Less than a minute later the sophomore drove in the for layup and immediately ran to the opposite side of the court to grab a steal on the edge of the out-bounds line. After momentarily coming out of the game for a nosebleed (from which she returned with a bandage), the 2021 national player of the year continued
her dominance. She tackled Seton Hall players to the ground, bandage and all, going after loose balls.
The sophomore ended Friday just one rebound and three assists shy of a triple-double.
NEXT: UConn will host its first game at Gampel Pavilion this season, facing No. 24 Notre Dame on Sunday at noon. The Huskies will honor their Olympic athletes with an unveiling of a new monument and ceremony at 11 a.m. before the game.