This weekend, the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team is set for a pair of matchups against two of the bottom three teams in the Big East: Xavier away on Friday and Georgetown at home on Sunday. The Huskies have had something of a gauntlet as of late, with their past four games coming against NET top 80 teams. They won three of those matchups, with the sole loss coming at home last Wednesday to NET No. 78 Villanova in the Huskies’ first conference loss in 169 games.
Before we get too far into this weekend’s slate, let’s take a look at another significant headline: Reigning Player of the Year Paige Bueckers was back in practice on Wednesday, despite being in a large brace. Bueckers injured her leg on Dec. 5 against Notre Dame and received surgery on it later that month.
“Today was the first day she was able to get out on the court,” coach Geno Auriemma said. “Up until now, the past few days has [sic.] just been shooting and mobility testing, so we’ll see where we go from here. Today was day one and who knows? We’ll see how she feels tomorrow.”
Although this is a far cry from Bueckers being back out on the court in a game, it is a positive step in the right direction at just the right time.
Back to this weekend’s slate, Xavier and the Huskies already met earlier this year in Hartford, but it wasn’t much of a game with UConn running the Musketeers out of the gym 78-41. That contest saw just two Musketeers in double figures – Aanaya Harris with 12 and Mikayla Hayes with 10. Xavier is currently No. 9 in the conference, only beating Butler, Georgetown and Providence. Before the Providence win on Sunday, the Musketeers had lost their previous five.
Xavier is led by junior guard Kae Satterfield, who averages 11 points, 7.2 boards, 2.5 assists, and a steal on just 37.6% shooting. Satterfield has found some success lately, scoring a combined 42 points in her last two games. This includes a torrid 16-17 from the line and 15 rebounds. She only managed four points last time against UConn, so if the Musketeers have ambitions to keep things competitive, they’ll need her to play better and take more than the six shots she attempted last time around.
Georgetown has had an even less successful season than Xavier, only holding two wins in league play – one against Butler and the other against Providence. The Hoyas dealt with an especially tough stretch as of late, losing 11 of their last 12. Their best win of the season was at home against George Washington, in a contest they won 68-63. They are rated in NET as theV 251st best team, which is second worst in the conference.
One big bright spot on their roster is sophomore guard Kelsey Ransom, who has found success this season. Ransom has scored 12.9 points, grabbed 5.2 rebounds, and dished out 4.3 assists, which puts her in the top 100 in the category nationally. The New Jersey native had a career night in their surprising 2OT loss to DePaul, recording 29 points, nine rebounds, and six assists. Ransom also has this production without a significant three-point shot, which should make it interesting for UConn to defend against.
For the Huskies, things have been mixed lately. Before they got to finish celebrating their win against then No. 7 Tennessee, UConn was knocked off at home by unranked Villanova. Since that surprise, they beat two of the top five teams in the conference by a combined 42 points and seem to be rolling.
A key player to watch for donning the navy and white will be Christyn Williams, who has made a nice impact as of late. The senior guard is averaging 18 points and two steals in UConn’s past three games on 50% from deep. Williams was verbally disappointed in herself after the Villanova loss, but is in better spirits thanks to the Huskies’ improved play.
“I’m proud of our team,” Williams said. “We’ve had our ups and downs this season, a lot of adversity, but we’ve always bounced back. These last few games we’ve really brought a lot of energy and looked different out there and I think you all can see it. We made the necessary changes and we’re still doing so to be the team we wanted to be in March.”
Another Husky to look out for will be Nika Muhl, who is one of the only players that can have a real, positive impact without scoring. Despite only scoring a total of 15 points across her last three, Muhl has totaled 17 assists, 15 rebounds and a pair of steals in that span.
“I’m just trying to do whatever my teammates need from me at that moment,” Muhl said. “Whether it’s passing, rebounding, defense; whatever it takes to win.”
The Huskies will take on Xavier on Friday at the Cintas Center at 7 p.m. and the game can be viewed on SNY. The latter half of the series will be in Hartford at the XL Center on Sunday against Georgetown, which will be broadcast nationally at 2 p.m. on CBSSN.