After an extended layoff due to COVID-19 issues, the No. 10 UConn Huskies travel West to face Big East foe Butler on Wednesday for what’ll be their second of four games in nine days.
Butler is not the most formidable opponent, 1-11 and winless in conference play, but after so many game cancellations, the Huskies are just looking forward to getting back into game action any opportunity they can get.
After defeating Creighton on Sunday, this will be their briefest break between games since playing Georgia Tech Dec. 9 and UCLA Dec. 11.
”I think we’re just gonna take it one game at a time,” senior Christyn Williams said Sunday about the team’s upcoming stretch following its 63-55 win over the Bluejays. “I was a little winded. But the only way you’re going to get in game shape is by playing games. So we’re just excited to be able to play and we’re grateful that our season is still going.”
UConn is still searching for its identity without reigning national player of the year Paige Bueckers. Each game moving forward offers them a chance to get closer to finding that.
“Right now we’re hoping as we start playing some games, and the games start coming in a rhythm fashion, that we’ll be able to kind of develop an identity for this new team that we have now until we get everybody back,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said last week.
Butler is coming off a long break of its own after dealing with four game cancellations due to COVID-19 issues, having last played Dec. 29. Its sole win of the season came against Evansville, 75-67.
Here’s what else you need to know about the matchup:
Site: Hinkle Fieldhouse
Time: 7 p.m.
Series: UConn leads, 2-0
Last meeting: No. 1 UConn 97, Butler 68, Feb. 27, 2021, in Indianapolis.
TV: SNY (Allen Bestwick, Meg Culmo, Maria Marino)
Stream: In-market SNY viewers with access to the network can watch via the NBC Sports app: http://stream.nbcsports.com/rsn/sny. Out-of-market viewers can watch on the Fox Sports App or at https://www.foxsports.com/ as well as on the FOX Now app or at www.fox.com/sports. The games might not appear on those sites until right around tipoff.
Radio: UConn IMG Sports Network on 97.9 ESPN (Bob Joyce, Debbie Fiske)
Butler probable starters, sixth man
Zoe Jackson, G, 5-7, Fr.; Alex Richard, F, 6-1, Fr.; Trinity White, G, 5-9, Fr.; Celena Taborn, F, 6-3, Gr.; Kendall Wingler, G, 5-10, R-Fr.; Emilia Sexton, G, 5-4, Sr.
UConn probable starters, sixth man
Christyn Williams, G, 5-11, Sr.; Olivia Nelson-Ododa, F, 6-5, Sr.; Evina Westbrook, G, 6-0, R-Sr.; Dorka Juhász, F, 6-5, Gr.; Caroline Ducharme, G, 6-2, Fr.; Aaliyah Edwards, F, 6-3, So.
UConn’s defense: Since Bueckers went down with her injury, Ducharme has led UConn in scoring at 14.3 points per game. The team overall is averaging 60.5 points in that span, practically unheard of for a UConn team. Turnovers have also been an issue, such as Sunday when the Huskies committed 16.
UConn’s defense: The Huskies’ bread and butter this season, especially now with Bueckers out. Teams are scoring just 60.9 points per game on 37.2% shooting.
Butler’s offense: The Bulldogs average 62.5 points per game on 41.3% shooting. They take a decent amount of 3s but make just 27.4%. Taborn (a forward who boasts a team-best 14.4 points per game) leads the NCAA with a 74.6% clip from the field. Butler’s 21.1 turnovers per game are a point of concern.
Butler’s defense: Butler’s defense is unable to compensate for its low-scoring offense, as the Bulldogs allow 78.8 points per game on 44.1% shooting. Taborn and Tenley Dowell are their top rebounders, but the team largely struggles on the glass.
UConn keys: Take advantage of size inside to score, dominate glass; cut down unforced errors, particularly turnovers and travel calls; another solid defensive outing, turn Butler turnovers into points on the other end
Players to watch: In her second game back from a foot injury that kept her out three games, how much will Nika Mühl be able to play? Can she cut down on fouls so she can make more of an impact?
About Butler’s coach: Kurt Godlevske is in his eighth season as head coach at Butler and is 91-128. He was tabbed Big East coach of the year in 2018-19 when the Bulldogs went 23-10.
Butler’s mascot: Butler Blue IV
Famous alumni: Former Second Lady Karen Pence, basketball coach Scott Drew, basketball player Gordon Hayward
Alexa Philippou can be reached at email@example.com