It was a tough win, but a win nonetheless.
On Sunday, the UConn women’s basketball team defeated THE Ohio State University Buckeyes 73-62, which tied their lowest margin of victory on the year. Not only that, but about three minutes into the third quarter they were down by five points, the latest they have been down in a game so far this season.
However, even though it wasn’t the prettiest, head coach Geno Auriemma was happy with the way his team played.
“When we had to make a play we made a play,” Auriemma told ESPN following the game. “Crystal Dangerfield just made some big, big plays, huge plays, the whole second half. We’re a work in progress, it’s gonna take us a while. When we’re good we’re okay and when we’re bad we’re not … so I’m pretty pleased with this win.”
Dangerfield led the team with 23 points on 8-for-15 shooting, including 4-for-8 from behind the arc. It was her first real offensive explosion this season, as up until Sunday she had not scored more than 14 points or shot over 50% in a game. She also dished out a team-high six assists and grabbed a respectable six boards, as she played every second of the 40-minute contest.
Christyn Williams and Megan Walker also played all 40 minutes, and Olivia Nelson-Ododa played 38. That’s been a common theme for the Huskies all season, especially in their close games. Dangerfield, Williams and Walker are all averaging over 37 minutes per game and Nelson-Ododa is right behind them at 33 minutes. This was the third time Williams has not come out of the game, which leads the team. Dangerfield has done so twice, and this was Walker’s first time.
“I’m gonna have to figure out a way to manage it, and I think we’re gonna be able to,” Auriemma said. “[Kyla Irwin’s] now come in and given us really good minutes, now we’ve got to find somebody else. I think Aubrey [Griffin] is gonna get a little bit better as time goes on, we’re just gonna have to keep working at it.”
Kyla Irwin had a breakout game versus Virginia on Tuesday and followed it up with another strong performance Sunday. While she only scored three points, she remained a useful contributor off the bench, being a solid passer and defender while also taking a key charge right at the end of the first half that otherwise would have tied the game for the Buckeyes heading into the break. On the year, Irwin is 8-for-8 from the field and 4-for-4 from three.
One notable absence from the game was Anna Makurat, who, while still starting, was almost a net-negative in the time she was on the court. Makurat played just 14 minutes, going 0-for-4 from the field and 0-3 from behind the arc while putting up a stat line of one assist, one rebound, one steal and two turnovers. She came out of the game with 2:06 remaining in the second quarter and never returned.
What does Geno think about his team this year? Well, let’s just say sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.
“I was telling one of our coaches, I said ‘if I had known it was gonna be like this, I would have enjoyed those other years a lot more than I did, I was miserable making sure we were good,’” Auriemma said. “It is like going back in time. We only have one player who’s played a ton of basketball, and Megan last year was a starter for the first time, so everybody’s learning on the fly, little by little, hopefully we’ll get there.”
Closer games are what UConn fans should get used to. They will still beat up on the teams that are nothing more than average, but against the good ones or just the ones who match up well as Ohio State did, it might not be as easy.