No. 1 UConn women getting a lot of contributions in the scoring column

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Vickie Fulkerson, The Day, New London, Conn.
·4 min read
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Mar. 1—Paige Bueckers was on what UConn coach Geno Auriemma calls "a superhuman streak."

There were six straight games this season in which she had 20-or-more points. Three of those games she had 30-or-more points, the first time that had been accomplished in the history of the women's basketball team which has won an unprecedented 11 national championships.

Since that streak ended, Bueckers' point totals haven't been as gaudy, but her assist totals have read 9, 9, 7, 9, 14. The 14 assists, in Saturday afternoon's 97-68 victory at Butler in Indianapolis, marked a single-game record for the top-ranked Huskies.

But rather than Bueckers, the superhuman freshman, scoring less, look at this way. Everyone else is scoring more.

"I feel like us other guards hitting our shots takes pressure off Paige," UConn junior Christyn Williams said. "I mean, everybody knows she's a great 3-point shooter, but I feel like against the good teams they're going to scout that and they're going to know.

"It's a big deal for us to put in the work and knock down shots in the game. For us to win further down the line, we're going to have to step up and help her. Like, we can't just leave her by herself. For me, I take that personal because as a junior, I'm supposed to be helping. So I've taken that personal and I've made it my call of duty to help Paige score the ball."

On Feb. 20 at Xavier, Williams led UConn in scoring with 22 points and freshman Aaliyah Edwards had 16 points and 11 rebounds. The following game, freshman Nika Muhl led the way with 19 points and five steals and Williams had 16 points.

On Saturday against Butler, Edwards had 24 points and 14 rebounds as the Huskies racked up 97 points. Bueckers had 20 points, 14 assists, seven rebounds and three steals. Evina Westbrook had 16 points, Williams 15, Olivia Nelson-Ododa 11 and Muhl 9.

UConn, 20-1 overall, 17-0 in the Big East Conference, plays its regular-season finale beginning at 8 p.m. Monday at Gampel Pavilion against league opponent Marquette, which is 17-4 overall, in second place in the Big East at 14-3. That game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

It is UConn's first home game since Feb. 10 against Seton Hall, after which the Huskies played five straight road games, capturing the Big East regular-season title during that stretch. UConn will next play Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

Auriemma is hoping the balanced scoring continues.

"You have to get contributions from a lot of people at this time of year," Auriemma said. "You can't think one person is going to be able to carry you."

Auriemma, whose team averages a Big East-best 83.5 points per game, said he was shocked recently when a sheet displaying the league's statistics came across his desk. He couldn't believe the Huskies led the league in 3-point field goal percentage at .353.

Auriemma, asked earlier in the season of his team's shooting woes, had quipped: "I don't think there's a vaccine for it."

"You're always looking to add one more shooter," Auriemma said this week. "If Paige is going to make her share and Christyn's going to make her share and throw Nika into the mix maybe and then (Westbrook) once in awhile and then when Anna (Makurat) comes back (from injury) maybe Anna once in awhile. Then all of a sudden you have a team that's a little more difficult to play against."

That's not even counting the roll that Edwards has been on in the post.

"If you say, 'Hey, every night we're going to get a game like this from Aaliyah,' then I would tell you that we're going to be really, really hard to beat if that's the case," Auriemma said.

Bueckers leads the team in scoring with 20.1 points per game, followed by Williams with 15.9, Nelson-Ododa with 12.7, Edwards with 10.4 and Westbrook with 9.8.

Bueckers is also now averaging 6.5 assists per game, more than any other player in UConn history.

"Paige is one of those kids that would rather get you a bucket than get herself one and that says a lot about her," Auriemma said. "Maybe that's why our team is where we are right now, No. 1 in the country. ... I think it's imperative that everybody get involved in the offensive flow of the game. For the longest time, it was just Paige and that's not what she wants. Her passing the ball, that's what she wants to do."

v.fulkerson@theday.com