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How UConn women’s basketball can improve its offense by tournament time

Where should the Huskies turn when the offense goes cold?

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball’s three losses all have a common thread this season — a struggle to execute on the offensive end. In each loss, the Huskies failed to reach 60 points and scored under one point per attempt.

While the lackluster offense was called into the spotlight on those occasions, it has been evident all season long. If it seemed like the offensive efficiency of this team isn’t on par with past UConn teams, you’d be correct.

The Huskies are scoring 108.1 points per 100 possessions this year, over eight points less than last year’s metric of 116.3. The three teams prior to last year’s set a mark over 122 points per 100 possessions. This year’s 108.1 is good for eighth in the country, per Her Hoop Stats. For reference, No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 Baylor sit at around 112 and No. 3 Oregon currently checks in at the elite level of prior UConn teams with 123.3 points per 100 possessions.

Still, there are certainly times where it feels like the Huskies can’t buy a basket. In front of mind is the two-point first quarter against South Carolina. The Gamecocks outscored UConn by as much in that quarter as they did the remainder of the game. So, where should the Huskies look to get things going when they’re faced with stretches where the offense is out of sync? Here’s a look at what has worked really well on the offensive end this season:

Nelson-Ododa posting up

This, of course, starts with keeping Olivia Nelson-Ododa on the floor. The 6-foot-5 center played over 30 minutes just once between the start of the new year and the South Carolina game. Geno Auriemma, however, seems pleased with her growth since that window.

That improvement combined with staying out of foul trouble leads to more minutes, as Nelson-Ododa played 39 minutes against the Gamecocks and the full 40 at USF. She likely would have surpassed the 30 minute mark against UCF on Saturday as well if not for a second half elbow to the nose.

When she’s on the floor and the Huskies get the ball inside to her on half-court sets, Nelson-Ododa is among the most efficient in the country. In 108 possessions this season where she has posted up, she has scored 136 points. That computes to 1.26 points per possession, which ranks among the top six percent of players, per Synergy. She scores at least one point, either from finishing at the rim or heading to the foul line, on 62 percent of those plays.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Getting out in transition

As cliche as it sounds, turning defense into offense is one of the best ways for UConn to break an offensive drought. The Huskies are lethal on the run, scoring 1.12 points per possession in transition, which ranks seventh in the nation.

Who’s the most prolific player for UConn in transition? Surprisingly, freshman Aubrey Griffin, who is shooting 80 percent from the floor on transition opportunities this season. This is excellent news for the Huskies’ offense, considering that Griffin also ranks just outside the top one percent in the country for steal rate. Griffin will be even better in transition if she can take better care of the ball and finish from the free throw line, where she currently makes just 54.5 percent. Megan Walker performs better in those aspects, making her UConn’s most efficient player in transition with an impressive 1.40 points per possession.

Setting up Makurat for catch and shoot threes

Anna Makurat has been a good, but not elite, three point shooter for UConn this season with a 38.9 percent field goal percentage from deep. She still scores the majority of her points — 72.1 percent to be exact — from beyond the arc.

Where Makurat is elite is on catch and shoot opportunities. Her three point field goal percentage rises above 41 percent on catch and shoot opportunities outside the arc. Even more impressive, she shoots over 51 percent from deep when she catches the ball unguarded, which puts her among the top three percent in the nation for offensive efficiency on open catch and shoot plays. If the Huskies can use Walker and Nelson-Ododa to draw the defense inside and kick the ball out to an open Makurat more often, they will set both her and the team up for more offensive success.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Spot-up shots for Dangerfield

The Huskies are likely to go to their senior leader when the shots don’t fall and Dangerfield is one of the best in the country at 1.28 points per attempt on spot-up opportunities. Most of those shots come on no dribble jumpers, which do require UConn to move the ball well and set her up for those opportunities. Still, Dangerfield is also elite off the dribble, where she takes less shots but is actually more efficient. She’s nearly automatic when she drives left and pulls up and as a whole ranks 10th in the nation for offensive efficiency on spot-up shots off the dribble.

Here’s a look at how efficient Dangerfield has been on spot-up shots this season, which also highlights her impressive range with quite a few made threes from well beyond the arc. (Circled attempts represent made baskets.)

Dangerfield’s spot-up shots this season, from Synergy

While the Huskies’ offense may not be as elite as it has been in past seasons, there are plenty of things they excel at. If they turn to these strong suits when their offense is not hitting its stride, they should be more successful against whichever teams they run into in March.