UConn's week off coming at 'the perfect time'

After a month and a half without a break, the Huskies finally get some rest before finishing up the regular season.

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!


Game coverage


Last week’s Weekly


  • UConn signee Morgan Cheli has been named one of five finalists for the Naismith Trophy, which goes to the best girls’ high school basketball player in the nation.

UConn's week off coming at 'the perfect time'

As UConn prepared for its matchup with Creighton on Monday, Geno Auriemma knew his team wasn’t at 100 percent. The Huskies were set to play their fourth game in nine days and hadn’t gotten more than three consecutive days off since returning from the Christmas break on Dec. 31.

In that time, the rotation has dropped to just seven players following Aubrey Griffin’s torn ACL on Jan. 3. UConn was running out of gas.

“I felt like after yesterday's practice, I could tell that we looked we looked a little bit drained. We looked tired. We looked mentally and physically tired,” Geno Auriemma said on Monday. “This is what happens at this time of the year.”

The Huskies hit a similar wall last February. After playing No. 1 South Carolina close at home, they dropped their next contest to Marquette then also fell to St. John’s a few weeks later. Across the rest of the month, UConn didn’t win a single game by more than 10 points.

“You just run out of juice there for a while and you gotta regroup,” Auriemma said.

Although it took a little while on Monday, the Huskies eventually found the energy. After an ugly first half in which they were tied with Creighton 31-31, they outscored the visitors by 20 in the second half to pull away for the victory.

“That first half was a real slog. It was really, really, really difficult to get anything going — and it was everybody. It wasn't like one individual. You could feel it was like a cloud hanging over us. So maybe halftime came at the right time,” he said.

Part of the reason for the congested schedule is that UConn likes to have a few non-conference matchups after the new year — Notre Dame and South Carolina this season. While that gives the Huskies a test they won’t get in the Big East, it also eliminates their byes in the schedule and creates a back-log of games to get through.

“That's one of the crazy things about our non-conference schedule and all the national TV games that we have. They kind of cut into our bye,” Auriemma explained. “Where everybody else is getting the rest, we're playing on national television against a top five team in the country, usually. So it’s crammed in.”

But now, UConn can take a breath. For the first time since the calendar flipped to 2024, the Huskies have an extended break with five days between Creighton on Monday and their next contest at DePaul on Sunday. After that, they close the regular season with three games in seven days, but will get six days rest before the Big East Tournament. Once that concludes, UConn won’t begin the NCAA Tournament for another 10+ days.

The Huskies are through the hard part.

“This week coming up where we have off all week from games, it’s coming up at the perfect time for us,” Auriemma said.

Still, there’s a lot of season left — at least, UConn hopes there is — and most of its key players haven’t played this much basketball before. While Aaliyah Edwards and Nika Mühl have gone through the grind of a full season, nobody else has.

Paige Bueckers will tie her career-high for games played in a season on Sunday with 29. As a sophomore, she only played in 17 contests. This is the first time she’s been through the rigors of a complete, non-shortened season while fully healthy. All those minutes are starting to add up.

Through Bueckers’ first 21 games, she hit 49.4 percent from three and 56.8 percent overall. Since then, those numbers have dipped to 30.2 percent from three and 45.9 percent overall.

“She's not quite 100 percent. She's not been right for about a week or 10 days maybe,” Auriemma said. “We have to figure out a way to keep her fresh, somehow.”

For what it’s worth, Bueckers herself isn’t worried.

“I don't allow myself to think about being tired mentally, physically, emotionally, because I'm so grateful to be playing the game of basketball again,” she said. “But yeah, there's some days where your legs are gonna hurt or your legs are tired from practice or from a game or something like that… I tend not to focus on that.”

This is also the time of year that first-year players hit the so-called “freshman wall” because high school seasons have started to wrap up at this point in the calendar and they aren’t accustomed to playing into March yet. While that’s always concern for newcomers, KK Arnold and Ashlynn Shade have played even more minutes than typical freshmen this season.

While the seniors usually head to the bench in the fourth quarter when UConn has a lead, one of those two has to stay on the floor since the team only has nine players available. Shade played all 40 minutes against Creighton despite the Huskies winning by 20. It’s almost impossible to give them a breather.

“They've played so many minutes this year. Way, way more than they ever imagined that they would play coming in,” Auriemma said. “We have to find a way to mentally give them breaks, not so much physically.”

As UConn showed last season, it can overcome fatigue down the final stretch — especially once the postseason begins. Luckily, the situation isn’t quite as dire this year and along with that, they’ll get plenty of extended breaks over the next few weeks.

Top play

Photo of the week

Photo: Ian Bethune

Best of social media

Nika knows herself well:

Geno learned about Paige’s decision with the rest of us:

Senior night sights:

Another milestone for Nika:

A sellout to close out the home slate:

Join the conversation

or to participate.