Points not coming easy for UConn women

Published on Wednesday, 12 January 2022 20:07
Written by CARL ADAMEC

Journal Inquirer

In nine of the last 10 seasons, the UConn women’s basketball team has averaged at least 80 points per game.

But whether it’s been injuries or inconsistency, the Huskies have been far from the offensive juggernaut they’ve been for a good three decades through 10 games this season.

With its 63-55 win over Creighton on Sunday in Storrs, UConn’s scoring average dropped to 68.9 points per game.

The last time the Huskies did not average at least 70.0 points per game was the memorable 1992-93 season. Remember? That’s the last year UConn did not win a championship of any kind - national title or conference regular season or tournament title. It’s the last year UConn did not make the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 or win 20 games, finishing 18-11 after a first-round loss to Louisville. And, yes, it’s the last year the Huskies lost back-to-back games, a streak that will reach 1,034 games without consecutive losses tonight when No. 10 UConn faces Butler in Big East action at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“I like that we move the ball around and get a lot of touches,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the Creighton win. “I don’t think I’ve ever coached a team at UConn that misses this many easy shots or this many makeable shots. So is there a positive in that at least we are getting a lot of easy shots but they just aren’t going in and that eventually they will start going in?

“You would like to think we could get four double-figure scorers every night. I think 63 points is not going to get it as time goes on. I think that somehow we have to find a way to get to 75 at least.

The Huskies (7-3, 2-0 Big East) opened the season by scoring 95 against Arkansas at the XL Center and 88 in their Battle 4 Atlantis opener against Minnesota. But they managed only 60 in the semifinals against South Florida and 57 in the final loss to South Carolina that included a three-point fourth quarter.

And in those games they had Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd.

It’s hoped Fudd (foot injury) will be back in action by the end of the month while Bueckers’ return from surgery on her left knee could come in mid-February.

“Thank God, at least our defense has been so good,” Auriemma said. “We have enough good offensive players but we’ve been so inconsistent that it’s hard to pinpoint, ‘Today we know for sure we’re going to get this from these guys.’ Every day it’s a little bit more of a guessing game than I’d like it to be.”

UConn ranks fourth in the Big East in scoring and assists and second in field-goal percentage. Those are areas that the Huskies often not only lead the conference in, but the country.

Bueckers’ return would change a lot of things. Fudd coming back would as well. The return of Nika Muhl Sunday certainly helps the guard situation. A consistent practice and game schedule would aid the cause.

Only one healthy Husky is averaging in double figures - senior Christyn Williams. Against the Bluejays, fifth-year senior Evina Westbrook took only one shot, a missed 3-pointer in the final minute of the third quarter. In 104 career games at Tennessee and at UConn, she has taken that few only once before.

“When you’re a senior and you’ve played a lot of basketball in college, there are certain expectations you’d think you would have for yourself,” Auriemma said. “If you were to ask her, I’m sure she is probably not exactly thrilled with her performances the last couple games.

“Being a playmaker is exactly what we need and we haven’t gotten that, Being able to make some shots is what we’re looking for, and she’s had games where that’s exactly what she did: She made plays and she made shots. And right now, that’s not happening. I don’t think it’s anything physical.”

On the bright side, freshman Caroline Ducharme is averaging 18.3 points in three games since joining the starting lineup. Graduate student Dorka Juhasz is averaging 13.7 points in the same three-game stretch.

“With everyone that gets injured and has to sit out for any extended period of time, that opens up the door for someone else,” Auriemma said. “You hope you have someone that can step up and provide you with what you need. They have both shown in some very competitive games that they can help you.”

“What that does is when you do get all your other players back, that makes your team that much better than it was before the injuries.”

Butler (1-11, 0-3) will be playing its first game since Dec. 29 tonight due to COVID issues within its program. The Bulldogs are led graduate transfer Celena Taborn, whose 74.6 shooting percentage is the best in the nation.

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Wednesday, 12 January 2022 20:07. Updated: Wednesday, 12 January 2022 20:10.