For the third time in five days, the UConn women’s basketball team will be on the court. This time they’ll be hosting the Xavier Musketeers as they attempt to keep their undefeated start to the season alive.
For the Huskies (3-0, 2-0 Big East Conference), it’s been a complete team effort getting them to this point, in particular the play of their “Big 3”: Paige Bueckers, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa. All three players are averaging double figures with Bueckers leading the way in both points (17.7) and assists (5) per game, while Nelson-Ododa paces the team with seven rebounds a game.
The most dangerous part of this UConn team is its passing ability, especially on the break. In their first three matchups of the season there have been multiple occasions where Bueckers grabs a board and immediately looks forward toward a running teammate, leading to the easy transition bucket.
Along with Bueckers, Evina Westbrook and Anna Makurat also have double digit assists so far, helping compensate for their offensive struggles as they continue to get acclimated to the new season. Having that many players able to run the offense means you can’t focus your defensive attention on just one player, and when the shots are falling this team becomes borderline unstoppable.
Nelson-Ododa was the star last time out in UConn’s 80-47 win over Creighton, scoring 24 points on a perfect 9-9 shooting, but she’s in line for one of her tougher matchups of the young season against Xavier, who has two players standing at 6-foot-4 or taller.
Xavier also started the season 3-0 but will be looking to rebound after a tough loss to Valparaiso last Wednesday. Redshirt freshman Nia Clark leads the Musketeers in scoring, putting up 15 points per game, but it is 6-footers Kae Satterfield and A’riana Gray who will be the biggest test for the Huskies.
The duo combine for an impressive 26 points and 18 rebounds per game and are a threat particularly on the offensive boards. The Huskies will need to force as many one-and-dones as they can if they want to get out early to take control of this one defensively.
Offensively this will serve as a good test for the Huskies, as Xavier have allowed their opponents to shoot over 50% just once so far. And for as good a passing team as they have been, UConn is also committing almost 17 turnovers per game, much more than Auriemma’s teams are used to. The Huskies will have to keep their composure, find and more importantly make the open shots they’ve become accustomed to in order to fight back against the Musketeer’s tough defense.
It’s still early in the season for UConn, but this Xavier team already looks better than the team that went 3-27 last year and will be far from the cakewalk fans may expect. The game is set to tip-off from Gampel at 1 p.m. and can be viewed on SNY.