INDIANAPOLIS - UConn coach Geno Auriemma had a chat with his seniors after beating Creighton on Sunday.
“I told them we need more from you three seniors, we need you to play better,” Auriemma said. “That's not a challenge or it wasn't to put pressure on them, that’s just a statement of fact. Hopefully, they took it to heart. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the beautiful thing”
Seniors Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams scored 19 points apiece and freshman Caroline Ducharme added 18 as No. 10 UConn rolled past Butler 92-47 on Wednesday night.
Evina Westbrook, the other senior, contributed 13 points and Aaliyah Edwards 12 points for the Huskies (8-3, 3-0 Big East).
“I talked to Christyn that she had to impact the game in other ways,” Auriemma said. “That defense, rebounding and hustle plays. She did all those things. Normally, Christyn doesn't do those things. But when she does she is a really good player and one who can do more than wait for an open 3-pointer.”
Williams delivered a career-high seven steals to go with four assists and one turnover.
“I think we had great energy,“ Williams said. “If we getting things going defensively, the offense will grow.”
Celena Taborn scored 13 and Emilia Sexton 11 for the Bulldogs (1-12, 0-4 Big East).
It was the most points the Huskies scored since they had 95 in the season-opening 15-point win over Arkansas. It was the largest margin of victory this season.
UConn’s largest lead was 55 points at 90-35 with 4:57 left in the fourth quarter. UConn shot 47.5% overall while holding Butler to 36%.
The Huskies grabbed control from the start, scoring the first nine points of the game.
UConn shot 62.5% en route to a 25-9 lead after the first quarter. UConn reeled off 17 unanswered points to push the lead from 19-9 to 36-9.
The Huskies cooled off a bit in the second quarter while increasing its halftime lead to 48-19.
UConn held Butler to 29.2% shooting for the half. The Huskies had a 25-0 edge in points off turnovers in the opening half. UConn ended the game with 43-0 edge in points off turnovers. The Bulldogs had 27 turnovers, 20 more than UConn.
“That was a big part of emphasis for us to make sure the game played fast and quick and uptempo,” Auriemma said. “We spent the last few games trying to beat the other team's halfcourt defense and it takes a lot out of you. We need to get some easy buckets. The energy level was great.”
Butler coach Kurt Godlevske said UConn's defense makes the difference.
“What makes UConn impressive without two phenomenal players is their defensive presence,” Godlevske said. ‘They have tremendous size and length. their toughness, their ability to get out and defend passing lanes still makes them a formidable opponent for anybody when they defend the way they are capable of doing. When they score 43 points off turnovers, when they are defending that way and making shots, it puts an amount of pressure on you to score at that level, too. That makes them special despite those two big scorers they are missing."
UConn: The Huskies were dominant in playing just their second game after a 21-day hiatus due to COVID-19 protocols.
Butler: The Bulldogs were playing their first game Dec. 29 after having the last four games postponed because of COVID-19.
The Huskies’ string of 305 straight weeks in the Top 10 ended after a loss to Louisville on Dec. 19. UConn moved up from No. 11 after beating Creighton on Sunday.
OUT FOR THE SEASON
UConn forward Aubrey Griffin had successful back surgery Monday to repair an injury. Her expected recovery time is four months so she'll miss the remainder of the season. She had not played in a game this season.
UConn: Hosts Xavier on Saturday.
Butler: Hosts Creighton on Wednesday.