As Saylor Poffenbarger took the court for the first time as a member of the UConn women‚Äôs basketball team Sunday, the 17-year-old got some advice and encouragement from one of her older teammates
‚ÄúI said, ‚ÄėSaylor, I‚Äôm going to pass it to you and you shoot it every time you touch it.‚Äô ‚ÄĚ UConn freshman guard Paige Bueckers said. ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs what she does in practice. She shoots the ball really, really well. She shoots it from everywhere. We have to guard it in practice so I said, ‚ÄėGo make DePaul guard it.‚Äô I wanted her to do what she does in practice.‚ÄĚ
Poffenbarger did exactly what she was told in her 1:52 of action. Bueckers threw it to her on UConn‚Äôs final three possessions and the 6-foot-2 guard fired a 3-pointer each time. Unfortunately for her she was 0-for-3 as the third-ranked Huskies closed out a 100-67 Big East win over No. 17 DePaul at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.
At 17 years, 9 months, and 18 days old, Poffenberger became the second-youngest player to get into a game for UConn in coach Geno Auriemma‚Äôs 36 seasons. The youngest is Svetlana Abrosimova, who was 17 years, four months, and five days old when she made her debut on Nov. 14, 1997.
‚ÄúI think Saylor really looks up to Paige so she shot it every time she touched it,‚ÄĚ Auriemma said. ‚ÄúIf we‚Äôd played three more minutes, she would‚Äôve had 10 more shots up.
‚ÄúYou have to like the kid. She knows what she is. She‚Äôs not shy about it. I‚Äôm sure at first she must have been a nervous wreck.‚ÄĚ
Poffenbarger, who signed her letter of intent last November, enrolled early at UConn after graduating from Middletown High in Maryland earlier this month. She was in uniform for the first time for Thursday‚Äôs game at Arkansas.
DOUBLE-DOUBLE THE FUN
UConn had two players record double-doubles for the first time this season as Bueckers (22 points, 10 assists) and Evina Westbrook (12 points, 14 rebounds) had their first as Huskies.
Westbrook did post a double-double two years ago for Tennessee in a loss to Stanford when she had 29 points and 10 assists.
Sunday‚Äôs effort was her ninth straight game scoring in double figures. In her last four games, the redshirt junior is averaging 14.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 6.3 assists.
‚ÄúLittle by little, Evina is settling into a role she enjoys,‚ÄĚ Auriemma said. ‚ÄúWhatever role she thought she had when she was coming in, I don‚Äôt know what it was. I didn‚Äôt talk to her about it. But she is settling into a role she knows she has to have on our team, and she is enjoying it. Shoot when you are open. Get the ball to people that are open. Be solid out there defensively. Impact the game in as many ways as you can. She has embraced it, and she‚Äôs enjoying it. Every day it shows more and more.‚ÄĚ
Freshman Nika Muhl‚Äôs trey with 2:06 left got UConn into triple figures for the third time this season ... The Huskies are finished with DePaul for the regular season. They play St. John‚Äôs (Wednesday) and Marquette (Friday) for the first time this week ‚Ä¶ UConn needs to play one more game in order to be eligible for the NCAA Tournament.