At the beginning of the season, head coach Geno Auriemma stressed how important Olivia Nelson-Ododa is to this UConn women’s basketball team. At 6-foot-5, there is no one more crucial to their success than their center.
So far this season, it’s been a mixed bag. There have been some good outings, like a 15 point, 10 rebound day versus Temple in mid-November, but some less than stellar ones like an eight-point, four rebounds and three first-half foul game versus Seton Hall at the beginning of this month.
However, after that game against UConn’s future conference foe, Nelson-Ododa has really hit her stride, stringing together three very good games in a row. She said from that game she really learned some control and how to limit her fouls, and it has shown, picking up two or fewer in each of the past three games. In the first seven, she did that just once.
Just three days after her struggles at Seton Hall, she put forth a 16 point, 10 rebound game against Notre Dame. The 16 points were the most she had scored in a game up to that point in the season, and it was fourth double-double after not recording one for four straight games. She wasn’t a particularly efficient shooter, going just 6-of-14 from the field, but 43% shooting isn’t by any means disastrous.
About a week later at DePaul, she, let’s just say, solved, the efficiency problem, putting up 19 points on 9-of-9 shooting and was 1-for-1 from the line to boot. The 19 points and five assists were both season highs, and the only negative about that game was that she grabbed just four boards. However, there really wasn’t a need to be concerned considering how much DePaul relied on the three.
Both of those games were good, but on Sunday versus Oklahoma, she essentially put both of those games together. She put up a career-high 27 points on efficient 13-of-18 shooting, a career-high, and grabbed 15 rebounds. She added a whopping seven – yes, seven – blocks for good measure, also a career-high.
“She’s always been a defensive presence,” assistant head coach Chris Dailey said. “… she really didn’t really have the dumb foul today in terms of trying to block a shot with the wrong hand or do something that would put us in jeopardy. I think she’s getting smarter as a defender, but she’s really just working harder at it and developing more of an offensive game.”
Nelson-Ododa has been instrumental to this team’s recent run of success against strong opponents, and her teammates have noticed how she’s improved.
“It’s huge, cause we know and she knows that she can be relied on,” Crystal Dangerfield said. “If you fluctuate with your game and your production, it’s hard to have that confidence in yourself and hopefully stringing those three games together has put her in a good spot.”
Oklahoma simply couldn’t do anything about her.
“She’s really tall,” Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale said. “And really good. We didn’t have an answer for her.”