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UConn women’s basketball’s Nika Mühl named Big East Defensive Player of the Year

Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Christyn Williams, Caroline Ducharme and Azzi Fudd all made All-Big East teams as well.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball sophomore point guard Nika Mühl has been named Big East Defensive Player of the Year, the conference announced on Thursday. Mühl averaged 2.2 steals per game — second best in the Big East — and headlined a Huskies’ defense which allowed a league-best 50.8 points per game against conference opponents. UConn also lead the Big East with 11 steals per game.

Mühl is often credited as the best communicator on the defensive end for the Huskies and established herself as the leader on that end of the floor as well.

“It’s a 180 degree difference when she’s on the floor,” Geno Auriemma said after UConn’s win over Butler. “She’s going to bring tremendous energy, defensive intensity.”

Mühl is the 11th UConn player to win conference defensive player of the year, joining Nykesha Sales (1997, ‘98), Ashley Battle (2003), Kelly Faris (2013), Stef Dolson (2014), Kiah Stokes (2015), Moriah Jefferson (2016), Gabby Williams (2017), Kia Nurse (2018), Napheesa Collier (2019) and Olivia Nelson-Ododa (2021).

Four other Huskies picked up conference honors as well. Nelson-Ododa and Christyn Williams both made the All-Big East First Team while Caroline Ducharme earned a spot on the All-Big East Second Team. Ducharme and Azzi Fudd were both selected to the All-Big East Freshman Team. Despite winning conference defensive player of the year, Mühl did not make an All-Big East squad.

Williams made the all-conference first team for the third straight season. She reached double-figures in all but one Big East game this season and averaged 16.3 points per game while shooting 50.5 percent overall and 42.3 percent from three in league play.

Meanwhile, Nelson-Ododa led the Big East with 1.9 blocks per game, her 61.1 field goal percentage in conference play ranked second and she also totaled 10.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and four assists per game. Nelson-Ododa previously made the all-conference second team in each of her last two seasons.

Ducharme was a revelation in the wake of Paige Bueckers’ injury as she became one of UConn’s go-to scorers with 13.1 points per game in Big East contests. On Jan. 26, she hit a game-winner with 1.6 seconds to go against DePaul and dropped a career-high 28 points against St. John’s on Jan. 23.

Fudd didn’t return from a foot injury until the Jan. 26 contest at DePaul but immediately became an impact player. She scored in double-figures in all but two of the 11 Big East games she played in and was the Huskies’ second-best scorer at 14.2 point per game in the conference. Fudd also shot 51.8 percent from the floor and 45 percent from beyond the arc in league play.

For the first time since 2013, the conference player of the year went to a non-UConn player. Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist took home the award while her head coach, Denise Dillon, claimed Big East Coach of the Year. DePaul’s Aneesah Morrow won Big East Freshman of the Year while Creighton’s Morgan Maly picked up the league’s sixth-woman of the year honor.

UConn won the Big East regular season title and is the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament. The Huskies will play the winner of No. 8 Providence and No. 9 Georgetown at noon on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena.