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  • The Aftermath: UConn shuts down Lucy Olsen, Bueckers goes off (again)

The Aftermath: UConn shuts down Lucy Olsen, Bueckers goes off (again)

Aaliyah Edwards also had a big game despite a rough shooting night

Photo: Ian Bethune

There’s been one area that UConn’s consistently struggled with this season, regardless of the players available: defending top guards. The Huskies got torched for 33 points by Saniya Rivers at NC State with a nearly full roster. Kiki Rice lit them up for 24 points in the Cayman Islands. Rori Harmon dropped 27 points at Texas. Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo went off for 34 points at Gampel.

The Huskies didn’t let that problem reoccur on Wednesday night, though. Despite the Big East’s leading scorer Lucy Olsen (23.6 points per game entering Wednesday) coming into town with Villanova, UConn shut her down in a 67-46 victory. She missed her first 11 shots and finished with just six points on a miserable 2-16 day — including a 0-5 mark from three.

“It was a huge emphasis in a shoot-around, in practice before the game of just trying to make shots tough for her,” Paige Bueckers said postgame.

The Huskies certainly did that. Nika Mühl led the defensive effort, but the task wasn’t on just her shoulders. It proved to be a full-team effort.

“Obviously Nika does a great job but as a team, we have to guard her. They set a lot of screens for her and their offense is moving constantly and they're very disciplined in their offense,” Bueckers detailed. “So us communicating on switches, on ball screens, on wave screens and just trying to make every shot she takes difficult, always have a hand in her face and make sure that she gets no easy opportunities. Nika is the head of the snake and then everybody has to follow suit and help her out.”

The six points are the lowest Olsen has scored all season and just the second time she’s been held under 10 points. In UConn’s last meeting with Villanova, it held her without a point for most of the second half but she still had 15 points. This time, it was a near shutout from start to finish.

Geno Auriemma didn’t want to give his team too much credit, though.

“The strategy wasn’t any different this time than it was last time. You just work really, really hard to try to make it hard for her to get the ball, try to make it hard for her to get to where she's going. Then [hope she’ll] miss when she shoots. That's the best strategy,” he said.

Still, considering the Huskies have been torched on multiple occasions by a guard this season, turning the league’s top scorer into a non-factor in three of four halves against her is a pretty good sign of progress.

Bueckers dominates (again)

Paige Bueckers reached the 30-point mark for the second straight game and the eighth time in her career with a 31-point effort against Villanova. Yet her final two points that pushed her past 30 only happened because of a substitution error.

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