Going into this season, UConn needed Megan Walker to step up. She delivered, racking up a conference player of the year trophy along with two first-team All-American honors (and counting). Here’s how Walker and the rest of the Huskies’ frontcourt performed this season:
The punchline: UConn led the country, allowing their opponents to record just 0.79 points per scoring attempt this season, anchored by the strong defensive play of their frontcourt.
That means for every true shooting attempt (which accounts for trips to the free throw line), UConn’s opponents scored just 0.79 points, which puts them at the top with the likes of South Carolina and Baylor trailing closely behind. The frontcourt led the way for the Huskies on defense. Walker, Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aubrey Griffin combined for 6.32 defensive win shares, meaning that approximately six of the UConn’s 29 wins can be attributed to the defensive effort of those three.
Megan Walker: Walker had the type of season everyone was hoping for since she stepped on campus as a freshman. She averaged 19.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, won AAC Player of the Year and was named an AP and USBWA First Team All-American.
Walker totaled the most defensive win shares (2.39) of any player on the Wooden Award ballot and also shined on the offensive end. She scored 1.02 points per play (which accounts for shot attempts, free throw attempts and turnovers), ranking among the top 4 percent in the nation. She also shot an impressive 45 percent from beyond the arc.
Olivia Nelson-Ododa: Nelson-Ododa continued her reputation as a shot-blocking machine with 100 blocks this season (fifth in the nation and eighth-most in program history). While on the floor, she blocked an impressive 11 percent of UConn’s opponents’ shot attempts. She also averaged 10.9 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, just 1.5 boards short of a double-double despite playing just 26 minutes on average.
Nelson-Ododa, like Christyn Williams, was another player clearly playing her best basketball down the final stretch. After struggling in some of UConn’s big games earlier in the year, she made noticeable steps forward, highlighted by her 10 point, nine rebound performance against No. 1 South Carolina.
Aubrey Griffin: Picking a top performance of Griffin’s freshman year is difficult. There’s her 25 point, 12 rebound performance that led UConn to victory at Seton Hall in December, how her defensive presence disrupted Tennessee’s offense to give UConn the separation it needed for a win, or her 16 point, 15 rebound (eight of which were offensive) effort in the first round of the AAC Tournament.
Griffin’s athleticism and quick hands on defense were extremely impressive this season, ranking her among the top 45 in the country for both steal rate and offensive rebounding rate. While on the court she came away with the steal on 4.3 percent of UConn’s opponents’ possessions (29th) and grabbed the board on 15.5 percent of the Huskies’ missed shots (45th).
Kyla Irwin: Irwin’s role evolved throughout the season. She started off as a top option off the bench before moving into a starting spot and then saw her minutes reduced down the final stretch. Regardless of her changing role, she played in important part in the UConn lineup during her senior season. Irwin was a reliable option for the Huskies, both as a starter and off the bench. She could be counted on to take a charge or come away with a rebound in key moments.
While Irwin didn’t shoot the ball much this season, she shot with incredible efficiency. Irwin scored 1.41 points per scoring attempt, which ranked 4th in the nation, and was perfect from the floor in five games — including a career high 14 points at SMU.
Evelyn Adebayo: Adebayo arrived at UConn as a touted grad transfer and one of the best rebounders in college basketball the prior season. Unfortunately, she never seemed to hit her stride with the Huskies, and averaged just 6.5 minutes per game. In her limited minutes on the floor, she did do well on the defensive glass, rebounding approximately 22 percent of opponents’ missed shots.
Batouly Camara: In what was unfortunately the tale of all of Camara’s time with the Huskies, she was again sidelined with a knee injury this season. She made her first appearance back from injury against Oregon, but never got to full health, never playing more than just three minutes per game down the stretch.
Looking ahead: Walker declaring for the 2020 WNBA draft definitely hurts the Huskies’ frontcourt picture for next year. But Nelson-Ododa made big strides this season and should be even better next year while Griffin’s athleticism and defensive abilities show a lot of promise moving forward. UConn also adds 6-foot-5 forward Piath Gabriel and 6-foot-2 wing Aaliyah Edwards in their 2020 recruiting class.