Behind another big effort from Paige Bueckers, UConn women’s basketball opened Big East play with a 74-49 win over the Seton Hall Pirates.
Bueckers finished with a team-high 23 points and also added nine rebounds, six assists, and five steals. She also hit a handful of clutch shots throughout the course of the game to quiet a raucous crowd at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange, New Jersey.
Christyn Williams added 17 points while Aaliyah Edwards looked like her old self with 12 points and seven rebounds — both season-highs. Dorka Juhász grabbed 10 rebounds after entering the game with just 13 all season while Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 10 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
UConn held Seton Hall to 28 percent shooting as Lauren Park-Lane (20), Mya Jackson (14), and Sidney Cooks (13) scored all but two of the hosts’ points. The Huskies also dominated inside, winning the rebounding battle 48-30 and scoring 50 points in the paint to the Pirates’ 12.
Seton Hall fired up the sold-out crowd with a 3-pointer from Jackson to open the game but UConn came back with a quick 7-0 run. Unfazed, the Pirates returned the favor with a 10-0 burst to take a 13-7 lead.
The Huskies struggled to protect the ball against Seton Hall’s defense and turned it over six times the opening ten minutes. Bueckers came up big to bail them out. She scored nine points in a row for UConn and in the midst of that stretch cut the Pirates’ lead from six down to one.
Edwards finished a put-back to put the Huskies back on top, but two free throws from Park-Lane gave Seton Hall a 17-16 advantage at the end of the opening quarter.
But then UConn flipped a switch. The Huskies held the Pirates to just six points in the second period and held a 16 point lead at halftime. After making its first two threes Seton Hall went just 1-of-13 from deep throughout the rest of the first half. Without the ability to make outside shots, the Pirates struggled to crack UConn’s interior defense.
It also helped that the Huskies started to capitalize on their size advantage. They grabbed 13-of-19 possible rebounds and allowed just one offensive board in the second quarter. UConn also scored 16 of its 23 points in the second in the paint, further establishing their dominance inside.
Out of the break, Park-Lane kept Seton Hall afloat by scoring the team’s first seven points of the half. UConn’s defense continued to frustrate the Pirates by holding them to 13 points in the third quarter, but the Huskies only scored 14 points themselves.
Then for the second consecutive game, UConn fell apart once the fourth quarter began. Seton Hall used a 7-0 run to cut the deficit down to 12. While Bueckers stopped the bleeding with a jumper from the free-throw line, Park-Lane came right back with a layup on the other end and sent the home crowd into a frenzy.
Soon after, Bueckers got incidentally knocked in the face, though the officials decided to look at the play for a potential flagrant. A long review followed by media timeout ensued and out of the break, Edwards scored off the inbounds. From then on, UConn out-scored the hosts 11-4 over the final five minutes.
The Huskies went on to earn a 25-point victory to start Big East play 1-0. Next, UConn will return home to take on Notre Dame at Gampel Pavilion on Sunday at noon.