How to watch
When: Tuesday, Jan. 19, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, CT
Radio: UConn Sports Network (97.9 ESPN and affiliates)
Record: 1-8 (1-7 Big East)
Preseason poll: 8th
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Head coach: Kurt Godlevske (seventh season)
In its last outing against Providence, UConn women’s basketball had arguably its worst perfromance of the season. Geno Auriemma pulled most of his starting lineup early in the first quarter after a falling behind 12-7 — the team’s largest deficit of the season — and rode with his youngsters for most of the game.
While bad games are bound to happen — especially with a team as young as this year’s Huskies — they couldn’t just turn the page to the next game. By a stroke of a back luck, each of UConn’s next two scheduled meetings were postponed due to various COVID issues. Because of that, the Huskies were forced to sit with that performance for 10 days.
“In a normal year you play two or three times a week on a regular basis. It’s predictable,” Auriemma said. “You would know right away. So you have to the Providence game, we would have had a game two days later, three days later and we would have known what the effect was and then after that game we would have had another game. None of that happened.”
As Auriemma has pointed out all season long, teams need games to progress and develop. At a certain point, practice no longer becomes helpful — especially with this UConn team.
“You can’t go by practice,” he said. “You can’t go by, ‘Yeah our practices have been really good.’ Our practice was really good leading up to the Providence game and we brought nothing to that game the first five, six, seven minutes of that game.”
Because of that, Auriemma won’t base playing time on what he’s seen in practice. Instead, he’ll just use the all-important eye test to guide his decisions — even if that means throwing things at the wall to see what sticks.
“[If] we start the game, I don’t like what I see, I’ll put some players in. If I like what I see, I leave them in,” he said. “If I don’t, I keep trying and then when the game’s over we try to get ready for the next one. That’s it. This idea of “Yeah we really look like we’re really good team.’ Nope.”
Scouting the Bulldogs
Butler comes into this game in last place. The Bulldogs have just one win — a 58-40 triumph over a Georgetown team that also has just a single victory — while all but one of their losses have come by double-digits.
Butler’s offense ranks in the bottom 15 percent of the country in both points per game (54.2) and field goal percentage (34.6 percent). Defensive, the Bulldogs aren’t much better. They give up 70.9 points per game while opponents make 44.6 percent of shots from the floor. Butler struggles on the glass as well, grabbing just 45.2 percent of all rebounding opportunities, 300 out of 342 teams in the nation.
Junior college transfer Okako Adika (14.1 ppg) and Genesis Parker (13.6 ppg) are the Bulldogs’ top scorers and the only players that average double figures. Jaia Alexander paces the team on the boards with 7.8 per game.
This will be the first meeting between UConn and Butler.
Jaia Alexander went to the same high school as Mir McLean — Roland Park Country High School. However, since Alexander is in her fifth year of college basketball, the two didn’t play together.
By the numbers
1,099 — With a win, Auriemma will gain sole possession of second place on the Division I women’s basketball all-time wins list. He’s currently tied with Pat Summitt at 1,098 wins.
8 — This will be UConn’s eighth game of the season. Last year, the Huskies played their eighth game on Dec. 8 — an 81-57 win over Notre Dame.
50 — Paige Bueckers has established herself as UConn’s top three point threat, hitting 50 percent from beyond the arc. That mark puts her in the top three percent of the nation.
What to watch for
Fifth spot in the starting lineup
Auriemma made his first change to the starting lineup against Providence, swapping Aaliyah Edwards in for Anna Makurat. However, the coach wasn’t thrilled with his decision postgame and didn’t sound close to making a decision on who to start in that fifth spot beside Paige Bueckers, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Evina Westbrook and Christyn Williams on Monday morning.
“I don’t know that there’s going to be a time where...I feel like, ‘Hey, this is the best five for us to start a game,” he said. “I’m just not not convinced there’s a right choice or a wrong choice right now.”
How do Nelson-Ododa, Williams respond to benching?
Against Providence, Geno Auriemma effectively benched Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams as the two both played fewer than 15 minutes. Nelson-Ododa responded to a poor showing in the season opener by scoring at least 15 points and shooting over 63 percent in her next five games. Will she bounce back like that again? Williams, meanwhile, has been more volatile throughout the season, though she hit a low point by going scoreless against the Friars. Will she use that performance as a spark to take her game to the next level or will she continue to underwhelm?