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UConn WBB Weekly: A Christmas wish list for the Huskies

‘Tis the season.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Xavier at Connecticut
Geno Auriemma making his list, checking it twice.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.

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In the news

Bueckers named Big East Rookie of the Week...again

For the second week in a row, Paige Bueckers earned the Big East Rookie of the Week award. In three games, she averaged 18.3 points, 6.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds as UConn went 3-0. Christyn Williams also made the honor roll with 20.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the same three games.

Espinoza-Hunter to play immediately at Seton Hall

After committing to Seton Hall earlier this month, Andra Espinoza-Hunter will suit up for the Pirates this season after receiving a “legislative relief waiver.” Previously, she opted out of the season with Mississippi State due to COVID-19 concerns. UConn will play Seton Hall again on Feb. 10 at Gampel Pavilion.


UConn’s Christmas wishlist

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone from all of us at the UConn WBB Weekly and The UConn Blog. We hope you’re able to celebrate in a safe and healthy manner, even with everything going on.

In the spirit of the holidays, we put together a Christmas list for UConn women’s basketball. This is just for fun, please don’t take it too seriously.

Health

This season, in a way that is more important than before, the No. 1 priority is keeping everyone healthy amid the pandemic. So far, UConn has done a good job of creating a pseudo-bubble within its program, though it still had two members test positive for the virus. If the Huskies can get through this season without any major issues, that alone will make this a successful year.

A lockdown defender

UConn isn’t a bad defensive team, but it’s not a good one, either. Though the Huskies haven’t allowed more than 65 points in a game, they haven’t faced any high-powered offenses yet. Olivia Nelson-Ododa is an elite defensive player but UConn doesn’t have someone that can lock up an opposing team’s best player one-on-one — such as Seton Hall’s Lauren Park-Lane or Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist.

If the Huskies can find a lockdown defender — whether that’s Evina Westbrook, Aubrey Griffin, or someone else — that will drastically transform how they play.

Better three-point shooting

UConn might not be the worst three-point shooting team in the country like Geno Auriemma said, but it’s not great, either. Outside of the Huskies’ 10-18 performance from beyond the arc against Xavier, they’re hitting 29 percent in their four other games.

Anna Makurat hit 41.0 percent from three last year, making her UConn’s top returning shooter. However, she hasn’t found her groove as a sophomore. Makurat has just seven makes on 22 attempts from three, good for just 31.8 percent.

Last year, her season turned around after she went home for Christmas. Though she can’t do that this year, maybe all she needs is a little Christmas magic to re-discover her shooting touch.

More selfishness for Paige

What’s the difference between Paige Bueckers and a baker? Bueckers gives away turnovers for free. Though the freshman has been fantastic this season, turnovers have been an issue. She’s coughed the ball up 18 times — an average of 3.6 per game.

Most of those have been a result of Bueckers trying to force a pass that isn’t there. But if she shoots the ball more (which Auriemma wants her to do), Bueckers will reduce her turnovers and improve UConn’s offense overall.

A foul exemption for Nika Muhl

Transitioning to college basketball from high school can be tough. But doing so from Europe adds a new challenge for to Nika Muhl.

“Oh my god. Me and coach always fight about this,” she said on SNY’s Huskies All Access. “I think defense is so soft here in America. Everything I do on defense here is a foul. That makes me so mad every time we play.”

For Christmas, Muhl should get a foul exemption so she can play the way she’s used to. There are too many fouls called in college basketball anyway, so this would help to speed up the game. It’d also solve the Huskies’ problem of not having a lockdown defender.

A GED for Azzi Fudd

Since all winter athletes retain their eligibility this season, why not get Azzi Fudd in a year early? UConn men’s hockey is doing it with its best recruit, Geno may as well too. Get Fudd eligible and bring her in early to help acclimate her to college basketball ahead of her true freshman season and give the team a shot to the arm.


Best of social media

UConn's annual holiday video is out:

Join the club, Buccigross:

This photo is UConn’s new logo. Sorry, I don’t make the rules:

Nothing like a couple of good reaction gifs from Geno:

This is an incredible stat:

Presented without comment:

Quotables

Geno, out of context: “I tried to help with the Christmas spirit. I gave you Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”

Geno Auriemma on his sideline antics: “I’m having an existential crisis here. I’m trying to become a more modern man and trying to be different than I was. Like when people said all I do is yell and scream on the sideline. So I tried to be different. And you know what? It doesn’t work. So I feel like I have to be the way I was today to get these young guys and to get this team, in the frame of mind where that’s what we got to do because kids today are just too laid back and it’s just their nature. So somebody’s got to be that person.”

Geno on Olivia Nelson-Ododa: “Two years ago with Phee and Lou, Liv was living in a different neighborhood. It was a Mr. Rogers neighborhood — be a kid and just hang out. Now she’s living in a tougher neighborhood where she’s got to do a lot more.”

Scoreboard

Saturday, Dec. 19

No. 24 DePaul 72, Georgetown 54
Villanova 73, Creighton 68
Providence 76, St. John’s 53

Monday, Dec. 21

No. 1 Stanford 61, No. 10 UCLA 49

Tuesday, Dec. 22

No. 18 DePaul 90, Creighton 81
Marquette 69, Xavier 56

AP Poll

  1. Stanford (—)
  2. Louisville (—)
  3. UConn (—)
  4. NC State (—)
  5. South Carolina (—)

Notable:

  • DePaul moved up six spots to No. 18
  • USF jumped three spots to a tie for No. 20 with Texas.
  • Tennessee received 12 votes while Villanova grabbed three.