STORRS - Senior guard Christyn Williams wonât be back in the lineup until next week, itâs hoped, for the UConn womenâs basketball team.
Freshman guard Azzi Fudd, itâs hoped, may not be far behind.
And Husky Nation awaits anxiously the possible return of sophomore guard and reigning national Player of the Year Paige Bueckers, maybe - itâs hoped - sometime in mid-February.
Thatâs a lot of offense missing from the Huskiesâ lineup. But even if the short-handed Huskies canât score like theyâve done for decades, thereâs no reason they canât play defense at a high level.
It proved to be a winning formula against Seton Hall Friday night.
UConn limited the Pirates to 26.4 percent shooting and 31 points below their season average in rolling to an easy 71-38 Big East win at Gampel Pavilion.
âI think we had a really good defensive plan coming into the game and we stuck to it,â UConn sophomore guard Nika Muhl said. âEveryone was helping each other. We had great communication today.â
Seton Hall (8-8, 3-5 Big East) hasnât had the kind of season it has wanted and it misses a glue player like East Hartford native Desiree Elmore, who moved on to Rhode Island as a graduate transfer in the spring. The Pirates were picked for third in the Big East preseason poll and with players like Lauren Park-Lane and one-time UConn player Andra Espinoza-Hunter, they can put up points.
Or so they were hoping.
Muhl, who came in averaging 1.9 points per game, scored a season-high 11 Friday night and her total matched the combined effort of Park-Lane (6) and Espinoza-Hunter (5). Park-Lane came into the game third in the conference in scoring at 18.1 with Espinoza-Hunter not far behind at 16.7. They combined to make only 2-of-19 shots.
The Huskies (10-4, 5-0) didnât light it up either, finishing at 41.2 percent from the floor. But they did dominate in points in the paint (38-8) and in second-chance points (21-2) as expected. They also held a 15-3 advantage in points off of turnovers and scored all 12 of the gameâs fast-break points as they rebounded from Mondayâs loss at Oregon.
Speaking of rebounding, the Huskies also dominated the glass to the tune of a 53-25 advantage.
âWe were all in a bad mental state after that game and we said to ourselves, âThat canât happen again,â â Muhl said. âI feel like we really played as a team today. Everybody contributed and did everything they could do. This was the result.â
Between Bueckers, Williams, and Fudd, thatâs 40-plus points per game on the sidelines. UConn had balanced scoring Friday night with four in double figures.
The defense made it a rout.
âThose points are gone for now,â UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. âThat doesnât mean that the game can only be played at one end of the floor and only one way. You have to be able to play basketball in a way that your offense and defense complement each other.
âI thought we played more as a group and as a unit today than we have. We were much more cohesive today than we were on Monday. Thatâs a big reason we looked so good. The communication was good today and the chemistry was better. Whatever the game plan was, we got it right almost the entire game.â
The Huskies also got solid guard play Friday night, something that was missing out on the west coast.
Getting more from Muhl would help until at least the cavalry arrive.
âSheâs the floor general,â UConn senior center Olivia Nelson-Ododa said. âShe gets it done, especially on the defensive end. Sheâs always talking to us, always communicating with us with what we need to do. That helps us a lot.â
âWhen sheâs on the floor, sheâs the voice of our team,â Auriemma said. âWhy? âGenerally, she knows what sheâs talking about. And she works harder than everybody else.â
The Huskies have a quick turnaround as theyâll visit St. Johnâs Sunday with an opportunity to try and build momentum against a struggling opponent with a showdown at No. 1 South Carolina on deck Thursday.
The defense canât rest.