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UConn WBB Weekly: Huskies about to see what life’s like for the rest of the country

After being battered by injuries, expectations for this UConn team need to be reset.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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For the next couple of months, UConn will see what life’s like for the rest of the country

UConn women’s basketball loss to Georgia Tech last Thursday was a record-setter, but not in a good way. It was the first time UConn lost to an unranked opponent since 2012 — a span of 240 games. The Yellow Jackets were also the first team to keep the Huskies under 45 points since 2006.

In the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech did to UConn what UConn typically does to other teams. The Huskies were out-scored 18-5, didn’t make their first field goal until the game was already out of reach, and had more turnovers (six) than points (five). Take the name off the jersey and UConn looked like one of the many other mediocre basketball teams in the country.

There’s obviously a reason for that. Not only did the Huskies lose star guard Paige Bueckers just a few days earlier, they were also without backup point guard Nika Mühl, top-ranked freshman Azzi Fudd, and veteran wing Aubrey Griffin.

They only had a couple of practices to figure out how to play without those four and then had to go up against one of the top defenses in the nation.

It took the Huskies another two quarters against UCLA on Saturday before things started to click. Though it wasn’t pretty, UConn eventually settled in and found a way to survive without Bueckers and company.

With the sophomore now expected to miss eight weeks after knee surgery on Monday, Saturday’s win is a preview of what to expect from the Huskies until Bueckers returns.

It’s unrealistic to expect them to continue to roll on as if nothing happened. UConn is a different team than it was at the start of the year. So it’s time to adjust expectations.

Even though five years have passed since Geno Auriemma’s squad hoisted a national championship trophy, the Huskies have remained a cut above everyone else. But the Huskies currently sit at No. 7 in the AP Poll — their lowest spot since 2007. This is only the second time they haven’t been in the top five in that same span.

They haven’t lost back-to-back games since 1993 — they don’t lose very often at all. UConn hasn’t lost more than three games in the regular season since 2004-05, losing seven the year after Diana Taurasi graduated.

That streak could be in danger with games against No. 6 Louisville, Oregon, No. 1 South Carolina, and No. 7 Tennessee all on the schedule before Bueckers is expected to be healthy.

In conference play, UConn hasn’t lost since a 2012-13 Notre Dame tilt in the old Big East. The Huskies won every game during their tenure in the AAC, joined the new Big East, and picked up right where they left off. They have a 162-game conference winning streak dating back to the 2013 Big East Tournament Championship.

UConn has kept itself perched atop the sport despite the title “drought” — at least until now. Few teams can survive the loss of their best player. Add the three other important pieces in Griffin, Fudd, and Mühl and the Huskies will naturally take a step back. The fact that they’re staying afloat is a testament to their depth.

For the next eight weeks that UConn will be without Bueckers, this is simply a different team. The Huskies aren’t going to win by 30 every single night. They’re going to lose some games and a lot of their wins will have to be ugly. Right now, the goal is to survive.

If UConn ends up thriving, doesn’t miss a beat and the loss to Georgia Tech ends up being a hiccup, it’ll be the result of one the best coaching jobs by Auriemma and his staff ever.

Until it proves otherwise, UConn will have to get comfortable with being just another team in the nation.


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Highlights from the win over UCLA:

Big viewership numbers for UConn-UCLA:

Dorka Juhász scored her 1,000th collegiate point on Saturday:

Photo of the week

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog