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Paige Bueckers out 6-8 weeks with tibial plateau fracture in left knee

The sophomore could potentially return by late January or early February.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UConn women’s basketball star Paige Bueckers is expected to miss 6-8 weeks after suffering a tibial plateau fracture in her left knee during Sunday’s win over Notre Dame. An MRI and CT scan revealed the injury, which is “a break of the larger lower leg bone below the knee that breaks into the knee joint itself,” according to the Reno Orthopedic Center.

“Obviously, we’re all extremely disappointed for Paige and that she suffered this injury,” Geno Auriemma said in a release. “It would be really hard to describe how much basketball means to Paige and how much her teammates mean to her. Not being able to do the thing that she loves to do, to be there for her teammates, is really difficult for her.”

A 6-8 week recovery timeline sets up Bueckers for potential return in late January or early February. UConn will play at Oregon on Jan. 17, at South Carolina on Jan. 27 and against Tennessee on Feb. 6. While the sophomore may set a personal goal to play in one of those games, Auriemma made it clear the team is not concerned about getting her back until she’s ready.

“We’ve had players get injured in the past and my philosophy here is, I’m not interested in how fast we can get someone back; I’m interested in what’s best for them long term,” he said. “Every decision made will prioritize what’s best for Paige and her career. Everyone involved with this program will be there to support Paige through her healing process.”

Bueckers went down with 38.5 seconds left in UConn’s 73-54 win over Notre Dame on Sunday. Evina Westbrook and Amari DeBerry carried her to the bench, and she was helped through the handshake line by team trainer Janelle Francisco and another member of the staff.

While a tibial plateau fracture is not the best-case scenario — Auriemma said postgame that would’ve been a hyperextension, which typically has a 2-4 week recovery time — Bueckers could still return this season.

Still, UConn will be without its best player for a long stretch of the season. Bueckers has averaged 21.2 points, 6.2 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game through six games.

The Huskies are already shorthanded with Aubrey Griffin (ankle, leg, back) and Azzi Fudd (foot) out. With Bueckers joining them, UConn has just four healthy guards left: Christyn Williams, Evina Westbrook, Nika Mühl and Caroline Ducharme.

When Bueckers went down, the Huskies were up by 18 and the game was effectively over. Auriemma explained postgame why he didn’t put her on the bench.

“She never wants to come out. She’s a pain in the ass to have on the bench because all she does is complain about why she’s not playing,” he said. “We’ve made a concerted effort in the last three or four games to get her some rest during the game.”

“I don’t have an answer for why she was in the game,” he added. “I mean, that could happen anytime. It could happen in practice. It could happen in the game. It can happen anytime. But yeah, I don’t like our team without her on the court. I mean, I might have to like it if she misses any time, but I don’t like the way it looks when she’s not on the floor.”

Now, the coach will have to find a way to cope without his go-to player.

UConn’s next game is on Thursday at Georgia Tech.