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UConn women’s basketball 2021-22 season in review: Frontcourt

The Huskies’ bigs were good this season but never quite reached their full potential.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball once again had one of the best defensive teams in the country for the 2021-22 season, holding its opponents to fewer than 80 points per 100 possessions (8th in the country). The Huskies’ frontcourt played an integral role in the teams’ success on the defensive end.

The punchline: UConn’s efficiency in the post helped carry the offense throughout the season. The Huskies scored 1.17 points per play on post-ups this season per Synergy, which ranked in the top three percent of the county, and 1.28 points per play around the basket, good for second-best in the nation. Still, injures hampered the ability of UConn’s frontcourt to capitalize on the depth it should’ve had this season.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa: Nelson-Ododa was once again the core of UConn’s frontcourt and had easily the best season of her career as a senior. Nelson-Ododa was the Huskies’ defensive anchor and the team’s net rating was 7.1 points better on the season when she was on the floor than when she was not. She also had her most efficient scoring season, shooting over 60 percent on two point attempts.

What really made Nelson-Ododa stand out this season was the versatility of her game in the post as the only player in the country this season to average at least 9.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. While her scoring and rebounding volume was not particularly high, her ability to facilitate from down low on the offensive end and disrupt opposing teams’ offensive strategies on the defensive end made her one of the most crucial components to UConn’s success this season.

Dorka Juhász: Juhász’s first season with the Huskies was up and down in part due to injuries but also the adjustment to playing at a program like UConn. The two-time All-Big Ten First Team player finished the year averaging 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.

Nearing the end of the season, Juhász started to hit her stride and found a clear role in the Huskies’ rotation before being sidelined with a season ending wrist injury in the Elite Eight. With a year in Storrs under her belt, Juhász should be well-prepared for a bigger role in the 2022-23 season.

Aaliyah Edwards: Edwards’ sophomore season did not have the best start. For the first half of the season, she looked nothing like the player she was for UConn towards the end of her freshman year. She lacked the aggressiveness on defense that the Huskies got from her in the 2021 postseason and she struggled to finish shots despite leading the country in field goal percentage the year before.

However, something flipped for Edwards in February, right around the time of the DePaul game where she scored 19 points to help the Huskies avoid back-to-back losses. Edwards finished the season strong, especially in the Big East Tournament where she had a case to be the most outstanding player. Her presence on the defensive end was particularly impactful, stifling Villanova’s Maddy Siegrist in the Big East final, which continued throughout the Huskies’ postseason run.

Amari DeBerry: DeBerry appeared in just 16 games this season and averaged just over five minutes in those appearances. While it’s hard to take much from those limited minutes, many of which late-game situations, she showed flashes that should help the Huskies in the long run. DeBerry came up with key rebounds in limited minutes immediately following Paige Bueckers’ injury and she held her own when her number was called in the national championship game when UConn’s frontcourt depth depleted.

Aubrey Griffin: Griffin did not play this season due to a host of injuries and underwent back surgery in January that ended her campaign for good. If her recovery goes well, she should be back on the court for summer workouts in June.

Looking ahead: Losing Nelson-Ododa is a tough hole for UConn to fill but the frontcourt is in good hands with Edwards and Juhász. Griffin’s return from back surgery should give the Huskies added depth on the wing and Geno Auriemma mentioned that DeBerry has committed to improving over the summer during the Final Four. UConn will also add two top five recruits, Isuneh Brady and Ayanna Patterson, to the frontcourt for next season.