Auriemma upbeat about Bueckers' recovery

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Feb. 12—STORRS — As the UConn women's basketball team got some shots up an hour before the start of its Big East game against DePaul Friday night, Paige Bueckers — left knee brace and all — fired up a 30-footer and found nothing but net.

The reigning national Player of the Year raised her arms triumphantly. Soon after she was making passes to Azzi Fudd as Fudd warmed up.

Could those things be happening again soon for her and the Huskies as Bueckers continues her rehabilitation from left knee surgery two months ago?

"Do I think she's going to play this year? I do. I do. I really do," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the eighth-ranked Huskies defeated DePaul 84-60 at Gampel Pavilion. "I'm not just hoping either. I think she's going to play."

Bueckers was injured Dec. 5 in the final minute of a win over Notre Dame and had surgery eight days later to repair an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear. The expected time of recovery was expected to be eight weeks.

There is no timetable for her return.

"She has the brace for a reason," Auriemma said. "She's been doing more and more things every day. She's running more, she's doing more basketball stuff on the court. It just doesn't involve a lot of cutting. So each and every day there's something that we try to add.

"What does that mean? There's been no setbacks. So if everything goes ... I asked her yesterday, 'When are you going to play?' She said, 'When I'm ready.' I said, 'When are you going to be ready?' She said, 'I'll let you know when I'm ready.' Athletes know their own bodies. They know when they're ready."

UConn has lost junior forward Aubrey Griffin for the season after back surgery. Freshman guard Caroline Ducharme (head injury) has missed the last three games and senior Olivia Nelson-Ododa (groin) the last two. Both are day-to-day.

The Huskies have six regular-season games remaining. The Big East tournament will be held at Mohegan Sun Arena March 4-7 and the NCAA tournament field will be announced March 13.

"When they get healthy and when they get Paige back, this might be ... this could become one of those special teams in March," DePaul coach Doug Bruno said. "That is something I really firmly believe, because all the other kids are getting playing time and experience. They're taking some lumps along the way, but they're going to maybe be able to pull it together at the right time."

For coverage of all sports in the JI's 18-town coverage area, plus updates on the UConn women's basketball team and head coach Geno Auriemma, follow Carl Adamec on Twitter: @CarlAdamec, Facebook: Carl Adamec, and Instagram: @CarlAdamec.