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UConn WBB Weekly: So far, the Huskies’ rotation has an Aubrey Griffin-sized hole

Through four games, UConn’s lack of depth has been a disappointment this season.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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Through four games, the rotation has an Aubrey Griffin-sized hole

UConn women’s basketball has made it through the opening sprint of the season. The Huskies have played four games against four different levels of opponents: An elite team in No. 1 South Carolina, a solid No. 23 USF, a fringe top-25 Arkansas squad, and a cupcake in Minnesota.

While UConn has shown plenty of flaws throughout those 160 minutes of action, one has stood out above the rest: The deep rotation we thought it would have hasn’t materialized so far.

Seven players — Paige Bueckers (36.3), Christyn Williams (35.3), Evina Westbrook (32.5), Olivia Nelson-Ododa (28.3), Aaliyah Edwards (20.0), Azzi Fudd (19.5), and Dorka Juhász (14.3) — are averaging over 10 minutes per game. Nika Mühl is the only other Husky that’s played in every contest while Caroline Ducharme averaged 6.3 minutes in the first three games but did not play against South Carolina.

The problem isn’t so much about playing time, though. It’s that only four players have consistently produced for UConn. Bueckers, Williams, and Westbrook have combined for exactly two-thirds of the Huskies’ scoring this season — 200 of 300 total points.

Meanwhile, Nelson-Ododa has been the best big. The senior center has the most points of the post players, with 26, and her 26 rebounds are more than Edwards and Juhász combined. Nelson-Ododa also has a team-high 10 blocks and 19 assists, second-most behind only Bueckers.

Outside of that core four, the rest of the rotation has been consistently inconsistent.

Neither Edwards nor Juhász have proven they can be counted on. Edwards has struggled to stay out of foul trouble and has been a non-factor on the offensive glass, with one o-board after dominating there last season.

As for Juhász, she’s often playing too fast and is prone to mistakes with nine turnovers — second-most on the team. The Ohio State transfer also hasn’t found her scoring stroke either with just 13 total points and has been way off on her three 3-point attempts.

Nika Mühl, who helped turn UConn’s defense around last season, seems to be searching for her role. She’s had trouble putting the ball in the basket, going 2-for-6 from the field and 0-for-4 from three, and only has three assists. Even though Muhl’s biggest contributions can’t be quantified on the stat sheet, the sophomore hasn’t stood out in any meaningful way.

The Huskies’ two freshman guards have also gotten off to a slow start. Fudd exploded for 18 points thanks to a 6-of-9 effort from three against USF, but outside of that she has 12 points in three games and is 2-of-9 from beyond the arc. Fudd has also been extremely tentative, often passing up open shots to defer to an older teammate.

Ducharme watched from the bench against the Gamecocks and hasn’t done much in her limited action. She’s only taken one 3-pointer — one of the strengths of her game — and, like Fudd, has been timid on the court.

That’s not to say any of the players mentioned aren’t capable of contributing or won’t eventually become important cogs in the Huskies’ machine. It’s just right now, UConn can’t rely on anybody besides Buckers, Nelson-Ododa, Westbrook and Williams.

There is one other notable player we haven’t seen yet this season: Aubrey Griffin. The junior has been sidelined with a high ankle sprain for weeks, so she hasn’t factored into the rotation. That could be changing soon, though.

“We’re hoping that she can start a full practice next week sometime and then see where it goes from there,” Auriemma said.

While Griffin won’t be a cure-all for the Huskies, they’ve missed her presence. Her length and athleticism give opposing teams a different look off the bench and she’d provide an immediate boost to UConn’s defense and rebounding.

Griffin would’ve been especially useful in the loss to South Carolina considering the Gamecocks owned a +17 margin on the glass and had 17 second-chance points. Auriemma clearly missed having her since he put in Mir McLean — whose skillset is similar to Griffin’s — for two minutes during the second half.

“This would have been a game where Aubrey could’ve helped big time,” Auriemma said.

Griffin is also uniquely capable of finding offense out of nowhere on occasion. While it’s not a skill she can call on at any moment, nobody else outside the core four can create points aside from Fudd. Griffin exploded for 25 points as a freshman at Seton Hall, 14 points three games later against Oklahoma, and has reached double-figures 12 other times in her career.

At the very least, Griffin almost always contributes something when she’s in the game whether it’s scoring, rebounding, defense, or just energy. As UConn works to activate its rotation, Griffin would provide Auriemma with an option that can fit into almost any lineup.

Before the season began, it looked like the junior might’ve been in line for a reduced role with so much talent on the roster. But through four games, Griffin’s absence has shown just has valuable she is. With 11 days off between games, the Huskies need to do all they can to get Griffin healthy and ready to play at Seton Hall — the same place she first burst onto the scene.

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