Two wins down, four to go if uconn women want to clinch the show’s 12th national championship.
the huskies advanced to a sweet 16 27 straight after defeating world no. 16-seed high point, 102-59, Sunday and no. 8-seeded Syracuse, 83-47, Tuesday in the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament. next: no. 5 seed iowa Saturday at 1 p.m. on abc with head coach geno auriemma, back with the team after completing his covid quarantine, on the sidelines. a win would give the show its 26th place in eight elite spots overall, and move it one step closer to extending its current streak of four finishers to 13 in a row.
Here are some takeaways from the Huskies’ first two victories:
paige bueckers has been paige bueckers
There was probably little doubt that Paige Bueckers would come out ahead in her first real win-or-go-home games as a husky. but that is exactly what he has done so far. Bueckers shone against the high point, scoring a team-high 24 points on 9-of-13 shooting and setting a program scoring record in his NCAA tournament debut. she did a bit of everything that night, notching nine rebounds, six assists, four steals and six trips to the free throw line.
He didn’t have as efficient a night against Syracuse (20 points on 5-of-13 shooting, 1-of-4 3-point shooting), but he did make some big plays in the second quarter that, despite his uninspiring offensive effort against the zone Syracuse helped the Huskies enter the break with a 41-26 lead. Bueckers also made a season-high nine trips to the line and got them all.
and being dumb, she managed to pull off some ridiculous passes.
He was everything you could ask for from a star first-year point guard.
“Paige has another gear,” associate head coach Chris Dailey said after the climactic game. “When she gets to that point, it’s hard to stop her.”
uconn posts came into play
outside bueckers, junior olivia nelson-ododa and freshman aaliyah edwards have had the most impressive tournament performances yet.
against high point, nelson-ododa and edwards had a huge size advantage and made the panthers call. The pair scored 39 of UConn’s points on Sunday, and they were a big reason the Huskies racked up more points in the paint (62) than total points scored. Syracuse (specifically, 6-foot-7 freshman Kamilla Cardoso) posed the opposite problem, and it took time for the Huskies to figure out how to operate against the orange zone. Once they did, Nelson-Ododa and Edwards were basically unstoppable, particularly in the third quarter, with Nelson-Ododa scoring 13 of her 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
edwards was also impressive with 19 points on just five shots from the field (he made 12 trips to the line), five rebounds and four assists. against high point he finished with a double-double (17 points and 12 rebounds) and has only missed two field goals in the first two games.
“I think he gave us great minutes,” Dailey said Tuesday. “Physical below, he finished around the rim, made some free throws. she and [nelson-ododa] are just playing really well together. And I think the longer the season goes on and the last few weeks, that relationship and that connection has been really strong.”
iowa’s monika czinano (6-3) is one of the best postings in the big ten. if the huskies advance and face baylor in the elite eight, they’ll be very busy against 6-3 queen egbo and 6-2 nalyssa smith.
uconn can win without nika muhl, but she is missed
Freshman starting shooting guard Nika Muhl suffered a sprained ankle on Sunday and was unable to go against Orange. His status for the Iowa game is undetermined, though Dailey said he is hopeful Muhl is well enough to play.
uconn was in no danger of losing to high point or syracuse after muhl’s fall, but his presence was missed. His defensive intensity sets the tone for the Huskies, something they will no doubt want to take on Caitlin Clark and Iowa’s high-powered offense. Offensively, Muhl is another good passer and a 3-point threat. uconn has only shot 8 of 24 from 3s so far.
“I was worried because there’s another shooting guard in the lineup, and another ball handler, another player who can shoot a 3-pointer and just her energy,” Dailey said Tuesday. “but everyone stepped forward.”
more of christyn williams?
after a dazzling big east tournament, christyn williams is off to a subdued start in san antonio. he has averaged 12 points on nine field goal attempts per game, among the lowest shooting totals he has had this season. That’s due, at least in part, to early foul problems against High Point, and because Uconn made a concerted effort to feed Nelson-Ododa and Edwards into the paint in the past two games. One bright spot is that Williams is shooting 50 percent from 3 so far in the tournament (six of his seven attempts were against Syracuse).
as the competition gets tougher williams will need to step up and be another offensive weapon that can hurt iowa and help contain clark if the huskies come forward and play baylor she would be crucial to potentially offsetting anything May Baylor’s dominant defense carry it into the paint.
alexa philippou can be reached at [email protected]