UConn women’s basketball cruised past UMass Lowell in its season opener, 79-23. The Huskies were powered by freshman Paige Bueckers, who starred in her UConn debut. She led or tied for the team lead in four categories: Points (17), rebounds (nine), assists (five) and steals (five).
Bueckers got the start along with juniors Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Evina Westbrook and Christyn Williams and sophomore Anna Makurat.
Nelson-Ododa also racked up nine boards (five offensive) while finishing second on the Huskies with 12 points. Williams also recorded double-figures with 10 points to go with seven rebounds while freshman Mir McLean finished with 10 points and four offensive rebounds in just 11 minutes of action.
Defensively, UConn held UMass Lowell to just 14 percent shooting (8-56) and 1-15 from 3-point range. The Huskies finished with 15 steals and forced 22 turnovers in total which turned into 28 points the other way.
It wasn’t all positive for UConn, though. They turned the ball over 18 times and hit just 3-13 from three.
UConn’s offense took a few possessions to settle in but once it did, the Huskies scored at will in the first half. They jumped out to a 11-0 lead and led by 20 at the end of the first quarter.
After UMass Lowell took an early timeout to stop the bleeding, UConn came out in a halfcourt trap which quickly paid dividends. Bueckers picked the pocket of a UMass Lowell player and went down the floor for an uncontested layup.
Geno Auriemma went with freshmen off the bench in the first quarter. Nika Muhl was the first reserve into the game, followed by Aaliyah Edwards. At one point in the opening 10 minutes, UConn had three freshmen on the court at the same time.
Aubrey Griffin didn’t make her first appearance until the start of the second quarter, but quickly made her presence felt with an athletic drive to the basket in transition followed by an interception at mid-court that led to another fast break for the Huskies. The sophomore ended the afternoon with nine points, one rebound and one steal.
UConn ripped off a 19-0 run in the second quarter which turned a healthy lead into a rout. The Huskies went into the locker room leading 48-13.
Though both teams struggled offensively out of halftime, the only uncertainty in the second half was how wide UConn would grow its lead. The Huskies only scored 31 points in the second half, but it didn’t matter as they improved to 1-0 on the year.
Piath Gabriel saw four minutes of action at the end of the game and finished with a statline of two rebounds, two fouls and one assists. Freshman walk-on Autumn Chassion was the only Husky who did not play.
UConn has won its season opener in 25-straight seasons now, dating back to the 1995-96 campaign. The Huskies will open Big East play on Tuesday, Dec. 15 when they travel to Seton Hall. Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. on SNY.