UConn women's basketball not suffering from Williams' struggles

Published on Thursday, 11 February 2021 20:34
Written by Carl Adamec

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - It hasn’t been easy being Christyn Williams this week.

The UConn junior guard’s struggles against No. 1 South Carolina Monday night went almost unnoticed thanks to the heroics of freshman Paige Bueckers at the end of regulation and overtime.

Though her teammates bailed her out again Wednesday with a second-half surge that gave No. 2 UConn a 70-49 Big East win over Seton Hall at Gampel Pavilion, Williams’ issues could not be ignored.

The Big East Preseason Player of the Year was 0-for-6 shooting from the floor for her second scoreless game of the season. In 25 tough-to-watch minutes she had as many of her shots blocked (2) as she totaled points (0), rebounds (1), and assists (1). She was a minus-6 in a game the Huskies (15-1, 12-0 Big East) won by 21.

What is there to say? Classmate Olivia Nelson-Ododa tried to respond.

“I think first and foremost, it isn’t easy being here and playing in these games, contrary to what a lot of people believe when they watch,” the junior center said. “As a teammate and close friend, we just support her. That’s the biggest thing. We’re helping her as much as we can just knowing that we need her and letting her know that, too.

“Everything here is definitely a challenge so we’re just going to be here for her as best as we can.”

After her first scoreless game of the year against Providence Jan. 9, Williams averaged 19.5 points over her next six including a career-best 29 points at DePaul on Jan. 31 and 18 at Marquette six days ago.

But on Monday she didn’t have a point until the third quarter and all three of her hoops were layups. With the Huskies down two and 3:03 left in regulation, she missed two free throws. When overtime started, she was on the bench. It would have been a story had Bueckers not taken over the headlines.

Wednesday was worse, and her teammates knew it best.

“In the huddles I definitely could tell she wasn’t really being herself,” UConn guard Evina Westbrook said. “I talked to her directly and told her, ‘Just get out of it. Wake up. You have to.’ In a game like this, you have to come ready to play. You’re going to have tough stretches like this. We all have a bad game here and there. She’s going to figure it out on her own as soon as she just gets in a rhythm and gets in a flow.”

In the third quarter, Williams had an open 3-pointer from the wing and found nothing but air. Two possessions later, she drove to the hoop and connected with the bottom of the backboard, with Seton Hall guard Andra Espinoza-Hunter getting the benefit of blocked shots from the stats crew.

As coach Geno Auriemma often says, shooting well and playing well are two different things. Wednesday didn’t go well for Williams on either account.

“I wish I could give you something,” Auriemma said. “She’s just going through a really bad stretch right now. She’s not a very confident shooter right now or a very confident offensive player. Hopefully it’s a phase and she’ll snap out of it.

“People play bad, and sometimes they go through stuff like that. What’s concerning is that … It’s one thing that the ball isn’t going into the basket, but not a lot of other stuff is happening either. I don’t know if the shooting part is affecting the rest of her game. I don’t know what you do about that.”

The Hall of Fame coach will likely give her another chance on Friday when UConn starts a stretch of five straight road games at Georgetown.

“Most good players go through periods like this where you feel like you can’t get anything going,” Auriemma said. “It doesn’t matter in any sport. All you can do is keep giving yourself opportunities. The more opportunities you give yourself and put yourself in those situations, the more chances you are going to get back on track. Right now it’s a real struggle for Christyn.”

It’s not easy being Williams right now. But the hard truth is the Huskies need her to perform at a high level to reach their goals.

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Thursday, 11 February 2021 20:34. Updated: Thursday, 11 February 2021 20:37.