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    UConn Women's Basketball
    Sunday, February 25, 2024

    No. 4 UConn women to face their first ranked opponent in No. 18 DePaul

    UConn junior guard Christyn Williams is just two points shy of reaching 1,000 points in her career as the No. 4 Huskies get set to face No. 18 DePaul in a key early-season Big East game on Tuesday in Storrs. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)

    There are a lot of DePaul stories dating back to UConn's last stay in the Big East Conference.

    For instance, UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma was saying Monday, there was the 2008 game, Maya Moore's freshman year, when the Huskies went out to Chicago and trailed by 17 points in the second half before winning at the buzzer on a mad sprint by Ketia Swanier.

    As recently as last year, UConn led by 26 at halftime before DePaul — coached by Auriemma's longtime friend Doug Bruno — came back to pull within 4.

    "When you have a young team, DePaul can make you look silly," Auriemma said in a video conference. "It's impossible to prepare your kids for something like that.

    "Our second team can't replicate what they do. They can't. Maybe if we have practice players that can go that fast and move that quickly and jack up that many shots, it may be a little bit easier, but we just can't simulate it in practice."

    No. 4 UConn (5-0) matches up against its first ranked opponent of the season at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, facing No. 18 DePaul (5-2), the fast-paced defending Big East champion, at Gampel Pavilion (SNY).

    UConn, which took three days off over Christmas before resuming practice Saturday, will follow with a game at No. 7 Baylor next Thursday night, beginning a particularly challenging section of its schedule with six freshmen and seven newcomers overall on the roster.

    Meanwhile, DePaul is averaging 88.3 points per game, 9.3 3-point field goals per game and has six players averaging in double figures, including reigning Big East Player of the Week Sonya Morris, a junior guard who scored 22 points in the Blue Demons' 90-81 win last Tuesday against Creighton.

    Also, DePaul has already faced three Top 25 teams, falling to then-No. 13 Texas A&M (93-91) and No. 5 Louisville (116-75) before beating No. 9 Kentucky (86-82). DePaul's defense is fourth in the nation in forced turnovers.

    "DePaul plays in transition a lot so our focus is on getting back on defense. They want to run just as much as we do," UConn junior Christyn Williams said.

    "They're just going to have to figure it out on the go," Auriemma said of the Huskies. "Do the best we can. ... You know what you gotta do? You gotta convert at the other end. That's one of the things that's always helped us in past years, we've been able to have really good offensive games against them and that's offset whatever we don't do well defensively."

    Auriemma has been complaining — loudly — about UConn's defense, attributing the difficulties mainly to the Huskies' inexperience. He referred to the strategy in last week's win at Villanova as "standing in our zone and yelling 'miss!'"

    "We're a work in progress," he said. "As everybody likes to say when they hate what they have, 'We're a work in progress.'"

    For all Auriemma's worries, however, UConn is also explosive on offense. The Huskies are averaging 89.4 points per game, 92.0 per game in the Big East.

    Freshman Paige Bueckers leads the way with 18.2 points per game, followed by Williams with 17.6 and Olivia Nelson-Ododa with 17.4.

    Williams is two points away from reaching the 1,000th point of her career, with she and Auriemma both learning during Monday's call that Auriemma called a substitution timeout late in the Villanova game in the midst of a Williams layup which would have pushed her over the milestone.

    "We're just excited to play top teams to see what we're made of," Williams said. "I think it's going to be a good challenge for us. We still have a lot of learning to do. We're not bad but we're not where we need it to be.

    "... I think that (the short Christmas break) refreshed us physically and mentally. You know, it's been a long stretch so the three days were much needed. We got a chance to spend Christmas together and hung out together and now we're back and we have a lot more energy than we did before."


    Freshman guard Paige Bueckers is UConn's leading scorer headed into Tuesday night's Big East showdown against DePaul in Storrs. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson)
    Guard Sonya Morris is the reigning Big East Player of the Week for No. 18 DePaul, which visits No. 4 UConn on Tuesday night in Storrs. (AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

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