The UConn women’s basketball team had a more tumultuous season than they’ve had in recent memory. Sure, they still finished the season with a 29-3 record, but three regular-season losses are just not what UConn fans have come to expect. They started the year 13-0 before falling to the No. 6 Baylor Lady Bears by 16. Their other two losses came over the next (about) month span, first falling to the No. 3 Oregon Ducks and then the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks, both by 18 points.
They cruised through conference play once again, going 16-0 and winning their seventh-straight American Athletic Conference Tournament Championship. However, that wasn’t their most mind-boggling accomplishment. When they won that final tournament game, it capped off a 139-0 run in the AAC, and with their move to the Big East for this upcoming season, that’s a mark that will stand forever.
Junior Megan Walker led the team in scoring with 19.7 points per game, was second on the team in rebounds with 8.4 per game and third on the team in assists with 2.9 per game. She was a force and the consistent scoring presence that the Huskies desperately needed heading into the 2019-20 season — for the most part. In the three games they lost, Walker averaged just 12 points per game on just 27.6% shooting from the field, far below her 47.7% mark on the season. From three, where on the season she shot 45.1%, she went just 5-for-21. Then, she surprised everyone by declaring for the WNBA draft at the end of the season and ended up being selected with the No. 9 pick by the New York Liberty.
UConn’s draftee that wasn’t a surprise was Crystal Dangerfield, who, in her senior season, gave everything she had for this team. She was second on the team with 14.9 points per game and first in assists and steals with 3.9 and 1.8 apiece. She was the unquestioned leader of the team, and on top of her very strong play on the court, she made everyone around her better. Following the season, she went No. 16 overall to the Minnesota Lynx, joining long-time UConn teammate and reigning Rookie of the Year Napheesa Collier.
Sophomores Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa both played well throughout the season. Averaging 14.6 and 10.9 points respectively, the two of them were important pieces in the starting rotation. However, they were far from perfect. Williams struggled with the three-ball pretty much the entire year, shooting just 33.3% from beyond the arc. As for Nelson-Ododa, she really had a tough time staying out of foul trouble in some games. Not only that, but for someone who played in over seven fewer minutes per game than Walker, who led the team in turnovers with 79, Nelson-Ododa still finished the year with 78. She was a force on the defensive end to make up for that though, finishing the year with a staggering 100 blocked shots, by far the most on the team. With the departure of Walker, Williams and Nelson-Ododa are set to be the two longest-tenured Huskies next season, so they’re really going to have to step up into a big leadership role as juniors.
The freshmen, for all their ups and downs that are expected from freshmen, also had very good seasons. Anna Makurat, after starting the year off slow shooting-wise, found her stroke and became a regular fixture in the starting rotation. Aside from her scoring ability, what was perhaps most impressive was her passing ability, proving throughout the year that she has the ability to grow into a very good ball-handler for the Huskies. Aubrey Griffin also had her moments, albeit in a lesser role. Her freakish athleticism made her an x-factor on both ends of the floor, and it culminated in an excellent performance in the first round of the conference tournament when she put up 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, eight of them offensive. As her teammates said about her many times, she can just do things on the court no one else can do.
Overall, it was a very interesting and exciting season for the Huskies. Like everyone’s, it was cut short due to the coronavirus, so we’ll never see what this team could have truly accomplished. The best way to describe the season, I’d say, was infuriating but fun at the same time. With a top-notch recruiting class coming in next season headlined by Paige Bueckers, the future of this program is very exciting.