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UConn WBB Weekly: The Huskies’ surging defense is different than years past

UConn’s defense is the best it has been in years.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.

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  • UConn came in at No. 6 in the latest AP Poll.
  • Christyn Williams is one of five finalists for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, which goes to the top shooting guard in the nation.

UConn’s strong defense is different than year’s past

UConn women’s basketball’s defense is finding its stride at the perfect time. Over their last 10 games — dating back to the loss to Villanova on Feb. 9 — the Huskies have allowed just 43.8 points per game and haven’t given up more than 60 points in a single game. They had one stretch where they held four consecutive opponents under than 40-point mark, too.

UConn deploys an aggressive defense that’s keen on turning the ball over and getting in transition. Over the same span, the Huskies have forced a giveaway on a quarter of their defensive possessions and score 23.2 points off turnovers per game. UConn is often successful at getting its hands in passing lanes to force steals but even if it doesn’t get one, it often prevents good looks or blocks the shots that opponents do get.

This isn’t just an ordinary defense, either. While the Huskies also improved defensively at the end of last season after giving up 90 points in a loss to Arkansas, Geno Auriemma sees a clear difference this year despite having mostly the same personnel.

“Last year, the year before that, the year before that, our defense was pretty good but it was pretty good in spite of itself,” he said. “They didn’t really commit themselves to wanting to be that good. They had a passing interest in it...It took a long time but this group finally did get it.”

UConn’s not just a team with a good defense. It’s a good defensive team and it takes pride in that fact. Much of that comes from Nika Mühl — the 2022 Big East Defensive Player of the Year — who guards the opposing team’s point guard and tries to disrupt their offense and Aaliyah Edwards, who marked Big East Player of the Year Maddy Siegrist in the championship game on Monday and helped limit her to just 16 points on 7-17 shooting. Those two set the tone and everyone else fell in line.

“I do think Nika had a lot to do with that, for sure,” Auriemma said. “Aaliyah had a lot to do with that.”

The emergence of the defense is also why the coach believes the Huskies are starting to “look like the UConn teams of old.” Auriemma and his staff aim to recruit talented offensive players, believing they can get them to become great defenders. For a while, it worked but recently, the Huskies lost that aspect of their program. This team appears to be finally getting it back.

“It’s funny how when you have a bunch of really good offensive players on your team, how all the other offensive players all of a sudden fall in love with defense,” Auriemma said. “That’s always been our philosophy here at UConn: Recruit guys that can score and then the ones that play defense play and the ones that don’t, don’t. Now these guys have finally figured out.”

Now, UConn has a little less than two weeks to get better before the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies already have a strong foundation with their defense and if they can get the offense to a similar level, they’ll be hard to stop.


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