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

All the Huskies’ guards stepped up at one point or another as the team battled through a slew of injuries.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

A slew of injuries this season left UConn women’s basketball’s backcourt in a constant ‘next-woman-up’ cycle. Each guard on the Huskies roster helped carry the team at one point or another this season.

The punchline: Injuries were the biggest story for UConn’s backcourt this season with Paige Bueckers, Nika Muhl, Azzi Fudd and Caroline Ducharme all missing significant time, while Christyn Williams also missed a stretch due to COVID-19. While this group of guards could have been one of the best groups UConn has seen, those injuries held them back from fully reaching that potential.

Christyn Williams: Williams led the team in scoring on the season, reaching double figures in all but five games. Still, inconsistency remained a problem for Williams in her senior year. She didn’t come out of the gate with the same defensive intensity she showed in the postseason her junior year but with all the injuries in the Huskies’ backcourt, Williams was a critical piece in keeping UConn in the discussion as a top team even when it was without multiple guards.

Williams was locked in for the postseason once again, being named the Most Outstanding Player at the Big East Tournament. Her effort on the defensive end as well as her aggression in the lane offensively were key components of the Huskies’ success in both the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament. Her 21 points against NC State in the Elite Eight put UConn in the position to have the opportunity to win the game before Bueckers’ takeover sealed it.

Evina Westbrook: Averaging nine points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals per game for the Huskies, Westbrook continued to be a player who did a little bit of everything and filled in the holes wherever they were. Westbrook did struggle with her shot throughout the season and proved to be a streaky 3-point shooter, but she came up with big baskets when UConn needed her to.

Perhaps the most notable game of Westbrook’s senior year was the Huskies’ win over UCLA in December following Bueckers’ injury and their loss to Georgia Tech. Westbrook put the team on her back and pretty much single-handedly kept UConn in the game in the first 15 minutes. She also came up big for the Huskies in the Final Four, knocking down three key triples to help UConn edge past Stanford.

Paige Bueckers: Bueckers’ freshman year was always going to be a hard act to follow, but the knee injury she suffered in the Huskies’ sixth game of the season kept her sidelined for the majority of her sophomore campaign. Prior to going down in the final seconds against Notre Dame, Bueckers was the clear focal point of UConn’s offense, averaging over 20 points and six assists per game.

While Bueckers was not at full strength when she returned in March, she still had an impressive finish to the season. Most notably, her 27 points and overtime takeover against NC State in the Elite Eight propelled UConn to the Final Four.

Even without being at full health in March, Bueckers was still the only major conference guard this season to shoot over 60 percent on twos per Her Hoop Stats (minimum of 100 attempts), which is extremely impressive considering her shot profile. She also ranked in the top one percent of the country with a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Nika Mühl: Mühl’s energy continued to be a catalyst for UConn’s defense this season. While her impact on the floor doesn’t necessarily shine through on the stat sheet, it’s very apparent when she’s on the floor. Mühl changes the tone of the Huskies’ defensive intensity whenever she is on the floor, which in turn earned her this year’s Big East Defensive Player of the Year award.

On the offensive end, Mühl continues to be a pass-first player but is a capable 3-point shooter at just shy of 35 percent. She takes smart shots from deep and if she can expand her offensive game some in the offseason, Mühl could be an even bigger threat for UConn next season.

Azzi Fudd: While Fudd’s freshman season started out slow due to a foot injury, she shined for the team in the second half of the season, leading UConn in scoring on multiple occasions. She led the team in 3-point shooting at 43 percent on the season, and was one of just five major conference players to shoot 43 percent or better on triples with five or more attempts from deep per game.

While known for her shooting, Fudd also showed that her skillset goes far beyond her quick release. She made smart decisions on the offensive end — especially for a freshman — and proved to be a strong defender as well.

Caroline Ducharme: Ducharme’s freshman season also had a quiet start, but she quickly rose to the occasion following Bueckers’ injury and carried the Huskies offensively in multiple games. Most notably, Ducharme had the ball in her hands and scored the game winner on the road at DePaul in late January.

In the span from the Notre Dame game until she missed the Tennessee game with a head injury, Ducharme averaged 16 points per game and tallied over 20 points four times, including against Louisville and Oregon. Following the missed time, Ducharme’s performance fell off a bit, but in the Huskies’ loss in the championship game against South Carolina she was one of the few players who could find the basket.

Looking ahead: While the seniors are big losses in UConn’s backcourt, the young talent in Bueckers, Muhl, Fudd and Ducharme should still be one of, if not the best backcourt in the country next season.