On Monday night, a primetime showdown took place inside Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. #2 UConn hosted #1 South Carolina in a nationally televised game on Fox Sports. The Huskies bested South Carolina 63-59 in a night where Paige Bueckers stole the show.
Bueckers’ dominance is not surprising at this point in the season. It’s expected.
Bueckers has only played 14 collegiate basketball games, but she has already left her mark on the Huskies’ program forever. Last night, Bueckers became the only Husky ever to record three consecutive 30-point performances.
When it Matters Most
Bueckers was in the spotlight down the stretch for the first time in her promising career against South Carolina. The 19-year-old freshman handled this pressure with the utmost confidence and delivered when it mattered most.
Bueckers nearly totaled half of UConn’s 63 points on her own. The guard dropped 31 on the night, shooting 14 of 26 from the field. The game was back and forth all night long, but Bueckers stepped up when her team needed a spark.
South Carolina was leading by four with under three minutes left in regulation. Bueckers brought the Huskies back at the end of fourth quarter and carried her team to an overtime victory.
She scored UConn’s final 13 points of the night to take down #1 South Carolina.
Ready for More
Bueckers doesn’t look like a true freshman on the court or while talking to the media.
Following the game, she stated, “Just the blessings that I’ve been given, just the opportunities I’ve received. It’s all just so crazy to me that I’m here playing at my dream school in huge games like this with an amazing team and coaching staff. Every day, every second, every minute, I’m super grateful to be here.”
Bueckers also credited her team for her success late in the game.
“We were struggling to score at some point in time.” Bueckers mentioned. It was my teammates really that got me open. They set, like, a million, trillion screens for me, down screens, flare screens, ball screens. Everything they did for me was just amazing.”
Many freshmen in the country would allow the press to get to their heads. Not Paige Bueckers. This future All-American is the real deal on and off the court.
Nothing but Praise from Coach Auriemma
Huskies’ head coach, Geno Auriemma, had nothing but praise for Bueckers following her sensational outing against the Gamecocks.
“When you’re as good a shooter as she is … she really just has a lot of confidence in her ability.” Auriemma said. “If she can get one off, she thinks it’s going in. I marvel sometimes at how hard she has to work because of the defensive attention that she gets every night. She’s just good.”
The 5’11” guard has been the do-all for the Huskies in her short time in Storrs. She is leading the team in scoring, assists, and steals. Additionally, she is shooting over 50% from the field as well as from behind the arc.
She is putting up these massive numbers for a program that hasn’t missed the Final Four since 2008. This speaks to the talent of Bueckers. She has been named the BIG EAST Freshman of the week six-time thus far, and I guarantee this number will continue to climb as the team approaches the NCAA Tournament.
When the updated Associated Press poll is released next week, UConn will most likely take over the #1 spot. This isn’t the most talented team that Geno Auriemma has coached in his tenure at UConn.
However, these Huskies won’t be outworked, and a big reason for this is the young leadership that Paige Bueckers radiates to her teammates.
The NCAA should be on notice because the Huskies have climbed back up to the top of the mountain. With Bueckers leading the charge, UConn is going to be tough to beat in March.
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