Women’s Basketball: No. 10 Huskies return home to clash with Xavier Musketeers

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The No. 10 UConn women’s basketball team returned to the AP Top 10 in style, dominating the Butler Bulldogs 92-47 in Indianapolis on Wednesday. Three days later, they are slated to return to Connecticut to wrap up their abridged stretch of Big East games.

The Huskies (8-3, 3-0 Big East) proved that their defense is ruthless and aggressive. The Huskies limited Butler to 31 points after three quarters and forced 27 turnovers, scoring 43 of their 92 points off them. UConn currently allows 59.6 points per game, but with performances like these, that number is expected to fall.

The defense was not the only thing operating smoothly against the Bulldogs. Five Huskies scored in double figures, with Christyn Williams leading the way and having her best defensive game of the season. Now up to 14.2 points per game, Williams dropped 19 points, picked up seven boards and committed seven steals.

Over the last four years, Williams has proven to be an incredible player for the Huskies. With performances like these, she will certainly be in contention for Big East Player of the Year (with Paige Bueckers, of course).

Williams is not alone in this high-scoring venture. With her 18 points against Butler, Caroline Ducharme has now scored 14-plus points in five out of her last six games, improving her scoring average to 9.3 points per game on the season. As each game passes, Ducharme’s case for Big East Freshman of the Year continues to improve.

Evina Westbrook, at 9.6 points per game, has been productive all season and continues to showcase her veteran experience. With her incredible performance off the bench (13 points and four assists), Westbrook could provide the Huskies a secret weapon down the line.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa dominated in the paint, finishing three rebounds shy of a potential third double-double of the season. Her 9.4 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game make her an incredibly balanced player both offensively and defensively.

Dorka Juhasz’s double-digit point streak came to an end, but at 6.4 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game, she can still be a threat on the boards and in the paint. Aaliyah Edwards had her second straight double-digit game and with seven rebounds, is making the Huskies’ frontcourt more dangerous than it already is.

The Huskies are slowly starting to get some key pieces back. Although Aubrey Griffin is officially out for the season after getting back surgery, the Huskies did welcome back Amari DeBerry and Piath Gabriel Wednesday, both of whom played over five minutes. Even with nine players, and Azzi Fudd slowly ramping up towards her return, there’s still a fight in the dog mentality for the Huskies.

Before playing the likes of Oregon and No. 1 South Carolina (again) on the road, the Huskies come home to play the Xavier Musketeers. The Musketeers (6-8, 1-4 Big East) battled close with Providence on Tuesday until the Friars pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Xavier is 201st in NET as of Thursday, tenth in the Big East ahead of Butler. While the Huskies average 71 points a game, the Musketeers are not far behind with 67.3 points per game.

The catalyst for the Musketeers is redshirt sophomore Nia Clark. Clark currently averages 14.1 points per game but has missed the last three games for an undisclosed reason. Clark, who has scored double figures in four out of her last six games played, will provide a tough challenge for the Huskies defense.

Like the Huskies, Xavier is missing their star player but has key pieces slowly returning, such as sophomore Shelby Calhoun. In her first game back from injury, Calhoun put up nine points, putting her at 10.7 points per game. Not only does she bring the aggression on the offense, but she also brings the ante on the defense, with her 5.7 rebounds per game ranking third on the squad.

The leader in rebounding is junior Kae Satterfield, who was limited to four points against Providence. Satterfield is averaging 10.1 points per game and 7.1 rebounds per game and has been a unit on both sides of the ball. Satterfield has three double-doubles to her name, and the Huskies will need to crash the glass to prevent her from having her fourth.

Junior Shaila Beeler (9.4 ppg) is on a hot stretch of her own, having scored in double figures in both of her last two games and four out of her last five, including a career-best 23 points against Cincinnati. She has committed at least one steal in all but one game, giving the Musketeers a dangerous option on defense.

The Musketeer backcourt is loaded, but what about the frontcourt? Redshirt junior Ayanna Townsend has five double-digit performances this season and currently averages 8.4 points per game to go alongside 6.1 rebounds per game. Like Satterfield, she can be a problem on both sides of the ball.

Graduate student and Clemson transfer Mikayla Hayes has been getting starting minutes as of late. She has been a defensive stalwart, averaging 5.9 rebounds a game to go alongside 13 steals and a team-leading 13 blocks. With both Townsend and Hayes out front, the Huskies will need to take advantage of as many second chances as possible, because these two will swat away everything.

Another name on the frontcourt is freshman Aanaya Harris. She splits her time between guard and forward but has been limited offensively since dropping a career high 20 points against Niagara. At 9.4 points per game, she is still a valuable option off the bench in terms of scoring.

In terms of team defense, a critical category, UConn enters averaging 38 rebounds a game while Xavier collects 37.8 per game. UConn has 4.4 blocks per game while Xavier has 4.2, but the big difference is that Xavier gets rejected four times a game while UConn has been rejected just 2.5 times a game.

The game will tip off tomorrow at noon (EST) at the XL Center on SNY with live stats provided by StatBroadcast.

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