How to watch
When: Feb. 20, 3:00 p.m.
Where: Cintas Center, Cincinnati, OH
Radio: The River 105.9
Record: 4-6 (1-5 Big East)
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Head coach: Melanie Moore (second season)
Geno Auriemma was in a saucy mood after UConn’s win over St. John’s on Wednesday and couldn’t help but toss in a sarcastic comment during a (mostly) thoughtful answer on Saylor Poffenbarger’s development.
“She has a chance to break the NCAA record for most shots in the least number of minutes,” he quipped. “It’s a hell of a thing, you know.”
Though the NCAA doesn’t actually keep records for that, Auriemma isn’t that far off — Poffenbarger does shoot the ball significantly more than all of her teammates.
The early enrollee has taken 11 shots in 14 minutes of play — .78 shots per minute. The next closest player is walk-on Autumn Chassion — who Auriemma has routinely lauded for not being afraid to shoot — at .47 shots per minute.
The rotation (players with 10+ minutes per game) shakes out about how you’d expect. Christyn Williams leads the group at .40 shots per minute, though Paige Bueckers is a close second at .39. Olivia Nelson-Ododa takes .36 shots per minute while Aaliyah Edwards puts up .30.
Evina Westbrook (.24) and Nika Mühl (.19) are on the lower end, though that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Westbrook scores when she needs to while Mühl is the embodiment of a pass-first player.
The Husky with the fewest shots per minute is Anna Makurat at .16, though she hasn’t played the last seven games due to a lower right leg injury. When she was on the court, she played tentatively and seemed more content to facilitate the offense rather than score the ball herself. Makurat’s play is best illustrated by the fact that she hasn’t taken a free throw this season.
Until Poffenbarger starts getting important minutes, there’s no harm in her firing up a bunch of shots whenever she gets in the game, especially since Bueckers has encouraged her to do so. The next step for Poffenbarger will be finally getting those shots to fall, and she should have plenty of opportunities to do so on Saturday against a lowly Xavier team.
Scouting the Musketeers
Xavier has dealt with COVID issues for much of the season and has only played six Big East games thus far — the fewest in the conference. The Musketeers have taken the court just twice since Jan. 4 with their most recent action coming on Wednesday when they fell to DePaul, 83-75.
Her Hoop Stats has Xavier ranked 215th in the nation overall. The Musketeer's offense is middle of the pack at 66.9 points per game but their defense is dreadful, allowing opponents to score 73.6 points per game.
Nia Clark leads the team with 14.0 points per game while two other players average double-digit scoring as well. A’riana Gray and Kaelynn Satterfield are both tied for the team lead with 6.6 rebounds per game.
UConn and Xavier met back on Dec. 19 when the Huskies earned an easy 106-59 win behind 24 points for Williams and a 16 point, 11 rebound double-double from Nelson-Ododa.
That game gave us this incredible photo of Bueckers as well:
UConn leads the all-time series, 2-0.
By the numbers
52.1 — UConn ranks first in the nation with a 52.1 field goal percentage.
8 — Paige Bueckers has shot above 50 percent in each of her last eight games and scored at least 19 points in every game during that stretch.
17 — Mir McLean’s minutes have dropped precipitously over the past four games as she’s played just 17 minutes total (4.3 minutes per game). Prior to this, she had averaged 8.4 minutes per game in 13 games.
What to watch for
Against St. John’s, Williams put together the best defensive performance of her career by shutting Leilani Correa down for just two points on 1-10 shooting. While it’s a positive sign that Williams is capable of playing lockdown defense, she now has to prove she can do so on a regular basis. She’ll have a chance to do exactly that on Saturday against Nia Clark.
Can Westbrook bounce back?
Earlier this season, Westbrook reached at least 10 points in nine straight games and was one of UConn’s most consistent players. But in her last six contests, she’s only reached double-figures once and went scoreless in two games as well.
Though Westbrook is still contributing plenty with assists and rebounds, her 3-point shooting has fallen dramatically. Over that same stretch, she’s made just 1-20 from beyond the arc after starting the year 25-58 (43.1 percent). While she doesn’t need to be one of the Huskies’ top scoring options, the team needs her to be a 3-point threat, especially with Anna Makurat out indefinitely.