A consistent presence
Nelson has become more efficient for Huskies
Olivia Nelson-Ododa’s overall consistency through three-plus seasons with the UConn women’s basketball team is represented in numbers: 113 games, 1,007 points, 746 rebounds. The Huskies’ record is 101-12 in that span.
A big body of work wins out over the big moments when looking at a senior’s career statistics, of course, and along the way Nelson-Ododa has struggled in some key spots, against some of UConn’s biggest and best opponents.
She was 0-for-7 and scored one point last season in UConn’s Final Four loss to Arizona, for instance, and was just 3-for-16 for eight points in UConn’s last three NCAA Tournament games, including victories over Iowa and Baylor. As a sophomore in 2019-20, she was 0-for-8 and scoreless in a loss at Baylor.
“I think if you come to UConn and score 1,000 points and you get close to 1,000 rebounds, that means you played on a really good teams, you’ve been to the Final Four every year you’ve been here, and you’ve been pretty consistent,” coach Geno Auriemma said Thursday. “I think if you ask Liv, she’d probably say, ‘I’m disappointed in some of the games that I played in my career.’ ”
More games to be proud of are being mixed into the fabric of that career, though. NelsonOdoda has been particularly efficient during a stretch unlike any other in Auriemma’s 37 years, with significant injuries (mostly notably to guards Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd and Christyn Williams) disrupting everything about the way the Huskies play.
Nelson-Ododa hasn’t necessarily carried UConn, which is just 4-3 since Bueckers was lost to a knee injury Dec. 19. She hasn’t suddenly become the standout that she is isn’t necessarily built to be. She’s been dependable, though, through a trying period while others have been either sidelined or erratic.
“When we started playing games, the systems become second nature as you open up and play, add your own element to the game. I hope I’ve got the systems down,” he said with a laugh.”
Chau, 24, is listed at 5-foot-9 and 164 pounds. Undersized as a youngster in Ontario, he knew the major-junior route wasn’t likely, and his parents wanted him to get an education. He studied finance at UMass and is pursuing an MBA at Quinnipiac.
He played three years of prep-school hockey and a year in Alberta junior hockey before going to Amherst, where last year, amid pandemic hockey, masks and distancing, “we focused on unity,” Chau said. With all the weirdness, they wanted to make sure their time together was quality time.
A shootout loss to Maine in their regularseason finale reminded them of a playoff loss from a few years earlier.
“The feeling in the room was we had to face some adversity there,” Chau said.
They went on to win Hockey East and the NCAA championship.
In a week, the Bobcats go to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport for the second Connecticut Ice tournament. Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac’s first-round opponent, won it in 2020. The 2021 edition fell victim to the pandemic.
Chau played there in 2021, though. The Minutemen came out of Bridgeport’s NCAA regional in front of a crowd of literal friends and family, with attendance limited to a couple of guests of each traveling-party member.
“It’s more than we had all year,” Chau said: pandemic hockey.
The return will spark some memories, but he has become a part of Quinnipiac’s culture now.
“Here, it’s just how excited everyone is around the rink,” Chau said, “whether it’s practice, a game, a morning skate, a workout. Everyone loves coming to the rink. You can hear it during a lift, the hooting and hollering. You can see it on the ice celebrating goals.
“That’s not to take anything away from UMass. It was kind of similar. But when everyone’s working hard and having fun, it’s the perfect mix.”