For the fifth time in 10 days, UConn was playing competitive basketball.
And for the fifth time in 10 days, the Huskies (16-1, 13-0 Big East) were able to walk away with a win, this time beating a gritty Georgetown team 64-40 to remain undefeated in conference play and stretch their win-streak to six.
This was the hardest stretch of basketball the Huskies have had to play this season, but coming out with wins in all five should have the team feeling more confident in their abilities with the postseason just around the corner.
“Playing five games in 10 days is really hard,” Paige Bueckers said after the win. “Ever since the Arkansas game we’ve been playing really tough teams, so just mentally pushing through it and physically pushing through it, I think our team showed a lot of resilience and strength. A lot of these games weren’t easy … but I think just the way we fought through it was really important for our team.”
The fatigue showed in this one, as UConn looked tired early against the Hoyas (1-10, 1-10 Big East), committing seven turnovers and shooting just 33% en route to a 13-point opening quarter. But for as bad as the Huskies offense was, their defense was enough to give them a 13-12 lead after one.
A quick start to the second quarter saw Georgetown take a 17-13 lead, but a 16-2 run by UConn was enough to give them a lead they would never relinquish. The run was sparked by a duo of Paige Bueckers and Christyn Williams, who combined for 12 of UConn’s 16 second-quarter points.
The first half was particularly important for Williams, who after shooting a combined 3-17 in her last two games, needed this one desperately as a comeback performance. Her 13 points at halftime led all scorers and her 19 points at the final buzzer was tied with Bueckers for a game-high. Head coach Geno Auriemma and Williams hammered the importance for her to be able to play with that confidence on both sides of the court after going through her tough stretch.
“She shot the ball fairly well but she was involved in a lot of other things on the floor,” Auriemma said. “So from that perspective it was a really good game for her.”
“It felt good just to see the ball go in a couple times,” Williams said. “I’ve really been struggling a bit shooting the ball and getting into a good groove but I’m very thankful for my teammates cuz they’ve had my back since I’ve been off … I just went into this game telling myself, ‘here we go, we’re in it’ and some shots went in.”
The Huskies’ offense picked up a bit in the third quarter, highlighted by seven points from Bueckers. The freshman would finish this one with 19 points — the first time she failed to reach 20 points since Jan. 21 — and nine assists in 39 minutes. Auriemma spoke on how crucial Bueckers is on a nightly basis, but said he wished the team didn’t rely so heavily on her so she could rest more — Bueckers is averaging a team-high 37 minutes per game.
“If you’re not on a team with a lot of great players and a lot’s being asked of you and you have to deliver every single night as a freshman, that’s a difficult task,” Auriemma said. “Paige doesn’t show it but it’s happened to her already and it’s happening maybe right now. When you have to take 25 shots some nights to win a game that’s not a great place to be in.”
The fourth quarter brought more of the same as UConn got contributions from Bueckers, Williams, Aaliyah Edwards, Nika Muhl and Aubrey Griffin to cruise to the 24-point victory. By the final buzzer, UConn shot 44% from the field and 32% from 3-point land in one of their worst shooting performances of the season, but it was their defense that once again led them to the win. The Hoyas were held to 40 points — the seventh time the Huskies have held an opponent to 50 points or less — on 31% shooting and forcing 21 turnovers.
The Huskies got some much needed rest this weekend and are set to face off against a tougher St. John’s team Wednesday as they continue their five-game road trip.