Following a season-altering overtime win over the No. 1 ranked South Carolina, UConn (15-1, 12-0 Big East) got another important 70-49 victory over the Seton Hall Pirates (9-3, 7-2 Big East) on Wednesday, Feb. 10. UConn has now won five games in a row.
In what’s becoming somewhat of a concerning trend for the Huskies, UConn was outscored in the first quarter by a margin of 16-10. Then, in what’s becoming an encouraging trend, the Huskies were once again able to bounce back, lock in defensively and take control of the game. In the second half of game action, UConn outscored the Pirates 44-22. Head coach Geno Auriemma noted the team’s slow start after the game.
“We had difficulty guarding them in the first half …We looked sluggish,” he said. “We didn’t get started really until the third quarter.”
UConn’s second half success can largely be attributed to defensive intensity and offensive rebounding. The Huskies had more total rebounds (46), offensive rebounds (15), blocks (6) and steals (11) than Seton Hall, and the key catalyst for the Huskies was junior Olivia Nelson-Ododa. The 6’5” forward collected a game-high 13 rebounds (5 offensive) and was UConn’s second leading scorer with 15 points. In Wednesday’s contest, Nelson-Ododa was taller than every Pirates player by at least four inches. She can be a matchup nightmare for the opposition.
After three straight games with 30 or more points, UConn got another 23 points from Paige Bueckers on Wednesday night. Additionally, junior guard Evina Westbrook had a terrific bounce back performance. Westbrook went scoreless earlier in the week against South Carolina but gave the Huskies 12 points, 8 rebounds and a team-high 7 assists against the Pirates. Auriemma attributed her improved play to an increased level of intensity.
“When Evina’s going to the basket and she’s being aggressive [and] making the defense have to respect her drives, it really opens up a lot of things for us … I liked exactly how she played today,” he said.
UConn’s next game is on Saturday, Feb. 15 against the Creighton Bluejays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.