Women’s Basketball Recap: UConn uses dominant 1st quarter to coast to 4-0 start to season in win over Xavier

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Connecticut forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa (20) shoots against Xavier guard Kae Satterfield (11) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Storrs, Conn. Photo by David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP

After a 3-0 start to the 2020-21 season, the No. 3 ranked Huskies entered Saturday, Dec. 19’s game against the 3-1 Xavier Musketeers as heavy favorites to win. Six UConn players scored in double figures and the Huskies coasted to a 106-59 victory and a 4-0 start to the season.

UConn’s best and most inspiring play largely came in the first quarter. The starting lineup of Paige Bueckers, Anna Makurat, Evina Westbrook, Christyn Williams and Olivia Nelson-Ododa began the game by double-teaming Xavier’s ball-handlers at the halfcourt line, forcing them into a risky pass. The result was that UConn began the game on a 19-0 run, forcing Xavier into nine turnovers in the process. Overall, UConn finished the quarter with a 38-7 lead with 13 forced turnovers.

The second quarter, like most of the second half, was much sloppier for head coach Geno Auriemma’s squad once Xavier adjusted to UConn’s full-court press strategy. The Huskies only outscored the Musketeers by a margin of 22-20 in the second quarter, a far-cry from their first quarter effort. The second half produced much of the same basketball and the game resulted in a 106-59 final score.

Connecticut forward Aubrey Griffin (44) and guard Paige Bueckers (5) battle for the ball against Xavier guard Nia Clark (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Storrs, Conn. Photo by David Butler II/Pool Photo via AP

From a statistical standpoint, UConn dominated their opponent on Saturday. Six UConn players scored in double figures while only one player from Xavier reached that mark. Meanwhile, UConn forced 25 turnovers on 12 steals, which resulted in 41 points for the Huskies, who allowed only 12 points-off-turnovers to Xavier. UConn also shot exceptionally well throughout Saturday’s contest, posting a 63.8% field-goal-percentage and a 55.6% 3-point-percentage.

Auriemma however, was not thrilled with his team’s performance as a whole. 

“I don’t look at the score,” he said. “We’re good at some things, we’re really good at some things, we’re not good at some things, we’re horrible at some things.”

Auriemma was particularly critical of his squad’s “poor” defensive play, which he attributed to a lack of communication. UConn entered Sunday’s contest allowing only 45 points-per-game, which Xavier surpassed by 14 points. 

“We’re not a great defensive team,” he said. “The problem is we have a team of some young [players], some older [players] that just don’t communicate well.”

What Auriemma did like though was the ball movement that led to 26 assists throughout the game. Freshman point guard Paige Bueckers in particular had nine assists to go along with her 19 points and four steals.

“We have a team that’s willing to pass the ball … which is rare in today’s game”

Junior guard Christyn Williams who led the team with 24 points in 30 minutes of play, also drew praise from her head coach. Auriemma said her improved shot selection has led to an increased scoring ability.

UConn will host Villanova on Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

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