After a strong start to her freshman season, Christyn Williams has cooled off recently for UConn women’s basketball. She had a three game stretched where she she scored 0, 2 and 2 points, respectively, and shot just 2-18 from the floor. She only got to the line twice, and missed both free throws.
Williams finally rebounded with 12 points on 5-10 shooting against SMU and hit her first 3-pointer since Jan. 9 late in the game. However, the fact that Williams hit the proverbial “freshman wall” at this point in the season doesn’t come as much of a surprise to head coach Geno Auriemma.
“I think the wall that she’s kind of run into — which is really expected — is a lot for her,” he said. “We’re already at almost 20 games, we’re already almost at a high school season.”
Struggling for a stretch in the middle of the season is almost like a right of passage for UConn’s top freshmen, like Williams.
“When they hit that spot that gets really challenging. [Williams] came here with all the hype and all the expectations, it’s not different than what Stewie went through. Shea [Ralph] had it when she was here. Moriah Jefferson had it,” Auriemma said. “It gets everybody, eventually it gets you. Crystal had it when she was a freshman. Crystal had that big game against Baylor early on in her career then really struggled after that.”
So how does Williams get out of the funk? According to Auriemma, she just needs some shots to start falling once again.
“Probably for Christyn, there’s nothing that a couple dropped threes, a couple layups and a couple free throws won’t fix,” he said. “Tomorrow’s the kind of a game where she can do that where she can get into the lane, mix it up in there like she likes to do.”
UCF, historically, has never been that great of a program. Despite being off to one of their best starts in their Division I era at 17-2, the Knights are only receiving votes in the AP Poll. They fall somewhere in-between USF, who is consistently in the top 25 and typically makes the NCAA Tournament, and the rest of the conference, who is usually happy with a WNIT bid.
But regardless of how many wins UCF has in a given year, they always make UConn earn their wins.
“The games that we’ve won, I don’t care if they’ve been by 20 or if they’ve been by 40. They’ve never been easy, that’s for sure,” Auriemma said.
The Knights’ style of play, in one word: Physical. In games past, UCF has typically beaten up the Huskies, especially down low. Last season, UConn only won 55-37. The Knights’ out-muscled and out-fought the Huskies, but talented eventually won out. UCF will try to do the same again on Sunday and Auriemma isn’t sure how his team will respond.
“We’re not ready for anybody’s physicality. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “That’s the team that we’re coaching right now so we have to figure out how to deal with it. Maybe we’ll deal with it great. Are we built for that? No. This isn’t that kind of team.”
Offensive Outburst Coming?
UConn hasn’t been shooting the ball particularly well in conference play so far. The Huskies have shot below 50 percent from the floor in their last four games and have only hit 30 percent or more from 3-point range in two of five games. But Auriemma senses the cold streak coming to an end.
“We didn’t shoot the ball that bad against SMU. I thought we shot it pretty well but I think we can shoot it great. I can feel it coming, I can see it in practice,” he said. “More guys are starting to make more shots, hopefully it’s a matter of time and tomorrow’s the day.”
- Napheesa Collier is closing in on a couple of career milestones. She needs 11 rebounds to reach 1,000 for her career and 60 points to reach the 2,000 mark. Only five players in program history have reached 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds.
Collier has reached 11 rebounds in a game six times this season, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that she does it tomorrow against UCF. As for points, she’s averaging 18.4 per game, so Collier will likely hit the mark around 3-4 games from now, possibly at Cincinnati or at home against ECU.
- Auriemma was not happy with sophomore Mikayla Coombs after practice on Saturday.
Question: Where’s Mikayla at?
Auriemma: “You should ask her where she is. And seriously, I don’t want to answer any questions about Mikayla. I’d rather talk about guys that are going to play a lot.”