One positive for No. 10 UConn women: Breakthrough by transfer Dorka Juhasz
Prior to Dorka Juhasz's breakthrough on Dec. 11 against UCLA, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma saw no indication what Juhasz, the 6-foot-5 forward and a graduate transfer from Ohio State, was about to accomplish.
"She asked me last week, as a matter of fact," Auriemma was saying before the Christmas break about Juhasz, the former two-time All-Big 10 Conference selection for the Buckeyes. "'I feel lost out there.' I almost said, 'Well get unlost.'
"(I said) 'You were first team All-Big 10. Where did you go to get your points?'
" 'Well, I like to go here. I like to go here.'
" 'Are there things in our offense that are preventing you from going to those places?' She said, 'No.'
"I'm not the brightest guy but I said, 'I have a solution. Go to those places. See what happens.' And it did. And she feels comforatble now."
Entering 10th-ranked UConn's Big East Conference matchup Wednesday at Butler (7 p.m., SNY), Juhasz has continued in comfort, now scoring in double figures in three straight games for the Huskies (7-3, 2-0).
In the UCLA game she was 5-for-5 shooting, including the 1,000th point of her career, and she had a career-high 16 rebounds that helped UConn fight past the Bruins 71-61 in a game which followed a demoralizing 57-44 loss at Georgia Tech two days before.
How would the Huskies recover from losing national player of the year and point guard Paige Bueckers to a leg injury?
They gave the ball to Juhasz, keeping intact a streak of more than 1,000 straight games without back-to-back defeats.
Juhasz is still averaging just 6.1 points per game after scoring just a total of 20 points over the Huskies' first seven games. She followed the UCLA game with a 15-point, 8-rebound effort against then No. 6 Louisville and had 10 points and three assists Sunday in a win over Creighton. On Sunday she stood at center court prior to the game and received a commemorative basketball from Auriemma for the 1,000-point milestone.
"Whatever you did anywhere else doesn't necessarily apply here," Auriemma said. "What you're expected to do here and the pressure you're under here, self-imposed pressure a lot of times, that suit doesn't fit right off the rack. There's got to be some adjustments made to it and everybody handles it differently."
"I was excited for everyone else to see," UConn's Evina Westbrook said of Juhasz's turnaround. "We knew that she could do it because she's been doing it in practice. I think it was more exciting for me for other people to see what she can do. I was getting texts like 'D is tough.' I knew D was tough."
Juhasz, from Pecs, Hungary, is UConn's first Hungarian-born player. She came in as a scorer, averaging 14.6 points and 11.1 rebounds per game last year at Ohio State with a Big 10-leading 12 double-doubles. She is a 3-point threat with 73 in her career.
Overall, Juhasz's presence has been one of the positives to come out of an injury-riddled UConn roster. Bueckers had surgery on Dec. 13 and will be sidelined for appoximately eight weeks, while ballhandlers Nika Muhl and Azzi Fudd have also been sidelined. Auriemma said junior forward Aubrey Griffin was set to have back surgery Monday and he didn't anticipate her returning this season.
"I think, you know, just keep working at practice," Juhasz said of her progression at UConn. "It's a different environment. In the summer, I came in and had to make some adjustments, intensity level, everything. Just keep learning from coach, from teammates and just keep moving up and making extra steps every time. Obviously it won't be perfect, but as I practice I feel like my confidence is going to get there too."
UConn returned from a 21-day stretch with no games to beat Creighton 63-55 Sunday. Freshman Caroline Ducharme led the Huskies in scoring for the second straight game with 17 points and had five rebounds and three blocked shots. Muhl returned from a foot injury but was limited to 17 minutes, with UConn using just seven players.
Butler (1-11, 0-3) has had four straight games postponed due to COVID-19, last playing Dec. 29, a 77-55 loss to Xavier. Celena Taborn, a 6-3 forward, leads the team with 14.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.
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