UConn eight ready for fast-paced Big East women's matchup at DePaul
Christyn Williams, just coming out of COVID-19 protocol, may be able to play a "couple minutes" Wednesday night, with the No. 10 UConn women's basketball team headed to DePaul. Freshman Azzi Fudd, with a right foot injury, is not yet ready to rejoin the lineup.
That leaves No. 10 UConn (11-4 overall, 6-0 Big East) with the same depleted roster, the same eight players it has had for three games now as the Huskies take on a makeup game against the team, DePaul, which is right behind them in the Big East (16-4, 8-1) and the team which leads the nation in scoring at 92.1 points per game.
The adversity, however, has come as a blessing in disguise, senior Olivia Nelson-Ododa said Tuesday.
"I try to pull the positives from it," Nelson-Ododa said. "I think facing this adversity, especially kind of early on in our season and now midseason has kind of helped us. Of course, nobody wants to have teammates out, injuries and whatnot, COVID protocol, whatnot, but I think overall it's kind of forced us to grow up in a sense and figure out different ways to contribute and get different people involved.
"It's really forced us to take on new responsibilities and kind of grow in different roles."
In the three games Williams (14.6 points per game) has missed, UConn stumbled to a 72-59 loss at Oregon, then dispatched a pair of Big East opponents, topping Seton Hall 71-38 and St. John's 75-57.
Following is a look at the performances of the UConn eight over the last three games:
• Freshman Caroline Ducharme has averaged 19 points per game over the three-game stretch. She had a career-high 28 points against St. John's while playing all 40 minutes. UConn coach Geno Auriemma said afterward that Ducharme, a reserve when the injuries struck, is "not afraid of the moment."
"I think some kids are just made that way. They're just wired that way," Auriemma said. "They grow up feeling like it's basketball and they don't allow where the game is being played, who it's being played against ... she doesn't get affected by that as of this point."
• Nelson-Ododa has been perhaps UConn's player. The 6-foot-5 senior had 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists against Oregon and followed that with 17 points, 14 rebounds and five assists against Seton Hall and an unusual double-double with 18 rebounds and 10 assists Sunday at St. John's. She averaged 12.3 points over the trio of games but also took over as UConn's current assist leader overall with 4.2 per game.
"I didn't really intend on those specific numbers," Nelson-Ododa said with a laugh of the St. John's stat line.
Said Auriemma: "Everybody's got to do what they're really, really good at, especially now when we're down a bunch of guys. We gotta have their best selves every night because anything else wouldn't be enough. I think Liv gave us her best self tonight and we all benefitted from it."
• Graduate student Dorka Juhasz has averaged 11.0 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in the last three. Her 16 points against St. John's matched a season high and Juhasz's contributions since Bueckers' injury have been invaluable for the shorthanded Huskies. She has scored in double figures five times in the last eight games.
• Redshirt senior Evina Westbrook is one of three guards on the current UConn roster along with Ducharme and sophomore Nika Muhl. Before Muhl's return from her own injury, Westbrook was tasked with bringing the ball up the floor on a regular basis and her scoring lagged behind. Westbrook has averaged 10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game since playing at Oregon, a homecoming game for the Salem, Oregon, native.
• Muhl's return from a right foot injury has been just the remedy for UConn, with her capable ballhandling and palpable intensity. Muhl has averaged 7.7 points per game in the last three, but has played 40 minutes twice and vs. Seton Hall had 11 points, seven rebounds, four steals, three assists and no turnovers.
"We all listen to each other but especially when she speaks, it's different," Westbrook said of Muhl. "She brings something to the table that I feel like no one can really match that."
• Off the bench: Sophomore Aaliyah Edwards is UConn's sixth man, averaging 6.0 points and 5.3 rebounds over the three games. Edwards got off to a slow start this season but has begun to return to her "old self" of late, hustling for a pair of steals in each of the last three games. Sophomore Piath Gabriel (five points) and freshman Amari DeBerry each played in UConn's win over Seton Hall with Auriemma complimentary of Gabriel.
DePaul is led by 6-foot-1 freshman forward Aneesah Morrow with 20.3 points and 12.5 rebounds per game. The Blue Demons suffered their only Big East loss at Marquette on Jan. 12, 88-85 in overtime.
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