Four straight away games down, one more to go — the last real road trip UConn has, in fact, before heading to San Antonio for the NCAA Tournament in March.
The No. 1 UConn Huskies take on the Butler Bulldogs (2-15, 2-14 Big East) Saturday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. in their second-to-last game of the regular season. The Huskies previously demolished Butler 103-35 at home. The Bulldogs’ pair of wins came against Georgetown and Xavier, and they’re the second-worst team in the league standings.
Here’s what you need to know about the matchup:
Site: Hinkle Fieldhouse
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Series: UConn leads, 1-0
TV: SNY (Meghan Culmo and Allen Bestwick)
Radio: The River 105.9
Butler probable starters, sixth man:
Okako Adika, F, 6-0, Jr.; Genesis Parker, G, 5-8, R-Sr.; Tenley Dowell, G, 6-0, R-Fr.; Upe Atosu, G, 5-9, Sr.; Nyamer Diew, F, 6-1, Fr.; Micah Scheetz, G, 5-8, Gr.
UConn probable starters, sixth man:
Christyn Williams, G, 5-11, Jr.; Olivia Nelson-Ododa, F, 6-5, Jr.; Evina Westbrook, G, 6-0, R-Jr.; Paige Bueckers, G, 5-11, Fr.; Nika Muhl, G, 5-10, Fr.; Aaliyah Edwards, F, 6-3, Fr.
UConn’s offense: Coming into form with the emergence of more weapons beyond Bueckers. Williams has had four straight games with 15-plus points, finishing at least 50 percent from the floor in the last three. Edwards has had a steady stretch, and is now fourth in the team in scoring (9.7 points per game) slightly ahead of Westbrook. Muhl dropped a career-high 19 points Thursday at Creighton. Against Butler the first time around, UConn’s starting five (which included Aubrey Griffin) all managed double figures.
UConn’s defense: When they played Butler in January, UConn forced 32 turnovers, which was over twice the amount of field goals the Bulldogs made. The Huskies made Butler pay on the other end too, dominating Butler 46-2 in points off turnovers. The Huskies’ defense has grown a lot in the last month and they had impressive defensive outings in conference play against St. John’s and Xavier most recently.
Butler’s offense: The Bulldogs like to shoot a lot of threes — 37.5 percent of their points come from beyond the arc, though they only hit 30.4 percent of their threes. Against UConn in January, only three players scored for Butler: Adika (18 points), Parker (15) and Dowell (2). Adika leads Butler in scoring with 13.4 points per game, while Parker adds 12.7. The team averages 54.6 points per game on 35.3 percent shooting.
Butler’s defense: Statistically one of the worst in the nation, allowing 75.8 points per game on 46.2 percent shooting. Butler has the worst scoring margin (-21.2 points) and rebounding margin (-8.2 rebounds) in the Big East. When they last met, UConn had no issues putting points on the board, finishing with their second-best offensive output of the season (103 points).
UConn keys: Fine tune things going into final stretch of regular season games; have better offensive execution than they had at Creighton, and don’t play rushed
Players to watch: Freshman Mir McLean has fallen out of the regulation rotation, which may be at least in part due to Auriemma already having seven players (not including Anna Makurat) to tinker with and who he wants playing significant minutes. Against an overmatched opponent in Butler, can McLean get some more minutes and improve her comfort level out on the floor?
About Butler’s coach: Kurt Godlevske is in his seventh season. After earning Big East Coach of the Year in 2018-19 following a 23-10 season, he guided the Bulldogs within reach of another 20-win campaign in 2019-20 before the cancellation of the postseason.
Butler’s mascot: Butler Blue IV
Famous alumni: Former college basketball coach Thad Matta, basketball player and inspiration for the film Hoosiers Bobby Plump, former race car driver Sarah Fisher
Alexa Philippou can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org