• UConn WBB Weekly
  • Posts
  • Paige Bueckers making a difference in UConn's early practices

Paige Bueckers making a difference in UConn's early practices

The Huskies have shown plenty of positives through the first week and a half of official practice.

Photo: Ian Bethune

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

Sign up to get the Weekly in your inbox every Thursday or subscribe to get our premium newsletter which includes film breakdowns, analysis, recruiting coverage, and more!


Last week’s Weekly:

In the news:

  • It’s preseason watch list and UConn is well-represented in the positional awards. The Nancy Lieberman Award for the nation’s top point guard watch list features Nika Mühl, Paige Bueckers is one of the 20 players on the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award list for the best shooting guard while Azzi Fudd and Caroline Ducharme are both on the Cheryl Miller Award watch list, which will go to the best small forward in the country.

Paige Bueckers already making a difference in UConn's early practices

UConn women’s basketball only started official practice at the beginning of October, but Geno Auriemma is already getting an idea of what his team does well.

“We have officials come to every practice now so we're really good at traveling, illegal screens, putting our hands on people,” he quipped. “The refs blow the whistle and these guys are shocked.”

But at this point in the calendar, it’s not the end of the world. It’s better for the team to learn what it can and can’t get away with in the eyes of the officials now rather than when the season starts in November — especially with five ranked opponents on the slate before the new year. The presence of the refs helps underscore what the coaches have already been harping on.

“Now they're realizing there's some things that we do that really piss me off and they think it's just my opinion,” Auriemma said. “Now that the officials are here, they're starting to understand.”

Last season, the Huskies committed 608 turnovers — the program’s most since 2002-03. The ball security struggles ultimately ended UConn’s season in the Sweet Sixteen when Ohio State’s press defense forced 25 turnovers. Auriemma’s focused on making sure that doesn’t happen again.

“I don't like some of the things that we do to hurt ourselves,” he said. “Again, it's early in practice and I want to make sure that that stuff gets cleaned up.”

It helps to have Paige Bueckers back. Part of the reason the Huskies turned the ball over so much was because they spent most of the year with just one ball-handler — Nika Mühl. Azzi Fudd helped out when she could, but she missed most of three months with a pair of knee injuries.

Now, Bueckers is there to share those duties while also helping out in plenty of other areas. Though UConn only has a handful of practices in the books, the difference with Bueckers on the floor is already obvious.

“I mean, you add somebody like that to your team, it's evident just in the way everybody plays, in the way everything flows,” Auriemma said. “The shot clock never runs out. You never get a shot clock violation. Just a lot of stuff that was missing… Everybody gets significantly better when she's on the floor.”

When the coach spoke to the media ahead of First Night on Friday, Bueckers was sidelined with a jammed thumb. While there hasn’t been an update since, the hope is that it’s just a minor injury.

Aside from that one blip, the Huskies have been trending in the right direction through their early practices.

“We had four tremendous practices — probably as good as any practices that we've had in a long time during the first four days. We had Saturday and Sunday off and Monday was one of the worst practices I’ve ever seen, so that brings you back to reality,” Auriemma said. “Tuesday was really good, Wednesday was off, Thursday was really good and today was pretty good. So all in all, I think our practices have been going pretty well.”

“We're playing a lot faster, we're playing a lot quicker, a lot more shots are going in,” he added later. “We've got more players out here available to us than we did last year and they work really, really, really hard. There's pretty good chemistry, the young guys are fitting in pretty well.”

At the same time, UConn has three true freshmen and a redshirt freshman in Ice Brady who didn’t play at all last season, not to mention Bueckers, who’s played with just six of the 12 other healthy players on the roster.

Ups and downs are to be expected — especially with the amount of time remaining before the season opener vs. Dayton on Nov. 8.

“A lot of learning is taking place,” Auriemma said. “Some of it looks amazing. Some of it looks not so amazing.”

Best of social media

Lots and lots of unread texts:

Sights and sounds from First Night:

*Eyeball emoji*

Nika always brings the energy:

A late addition for UConn?

Join the conversation

or to participate.