Paige Bueckers returns to UConn women’s basketball after injury

Paige Bueckers

Paige Bueckers, the reigning national player of the year, made her long-awaited return to the court on Wednesday night as the UConn women’s basketball team defeated Dayton 102-58 in their season opener at the XL Center. Bueckers, who tore her ACL in August 2022, played her first competitive game in 584 days and finished with eight points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals in 17 minutes. She did not play in the fourth quarter when UConn led by 40.

Bueckers hit her first shot, a layup with 8:17 left in the first quarter, and received a big ovation from the crowd when she was introduced. She also got yelled at by coach Geno Auriemma after she left the game late in the first quarter, showing that he still expects a lot from his star player. Bueckers admitted that she was nervous and rusty, but grateful to be back on the floor.

“I was just happy to be out there,” Bueckers said. “It felt like old times, just being with my teammates and playing the game that I love. It was a lot of fun.”

Paige Bueckers

UConn dominates with balanced scoring and depth

UConn had no problems in their first game of the season, as they showcased their balanced scoring and depth. Six players scored in double figures, led by Aaliyah Edwards with 23 points on 10 of 12 shooting, along with nine rebounds and two blocks. Azzi Fudd, the No. 1 recruit in the 2022 class, had 18 points and five assists in her UConn debut. Nika Muhl added 15 points, while Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Dorka Juhasz, and Mir McLean each had 10 points.

The Huskies used 10 players in the first half, a luxury they did not have last year when injuries severely limited their roster. UConn’s bench outscored Dayton, coached by former Huskies star Tamika Williams-Jeter, 38-17. UConn also shot 55.7 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three-point line, and 80 percent from the free-throw line, while holding Dayton to 34.4 percent, 25 percent, and 66.7 percent, respectively.

“We have a lot of weapons, a lot of options,” Edwards said. “We’re well-balanced, and we can score from anywhere on the court.”

UConn looks ahead to a challenging schedule

UConn’s season opener was a warm-up for the challenging schedule that awaits them. The Huskies will face No. 5 South Carolina, No. 6 Maryland, No. 7 Oregon, No. 9 Louisville, and No. 10 Baylor in their non-conference slate, as well as Big East rivals DePaul, Marquette, and Seton Hall. UConn is aiming for its 13th national title and its first since 2016, after falling short in the Final Four for the last five years.

Auriemma said that he was pleased with his team’s performance but also aware that they have a lot of room for improvement. He said that he will continue to challenge his players, especially Bueckers, to reach their full potential.

“I think we have a chance to be a really good team,” Auriemma said. “But we have a long way to go. We have to get better every day, every game. And Paige has to get better too. She’s not the same Paige that she was last year. She has to work her way back to that level, and even higher.”

By Kane Wilson

Kane Wilson, founder of this news website, is a seasoned news editor renowned for his analytical skills and meticulous approach to storytelling. His journey in journalism began as a local reporter, and he quickly climbed the ranks due to his talent for unearthing compelling stories. Kane completed his Master’s degree in Media Studies from Northwestern University and spent several years in broadcast journalism prior to co-founding this platform. His dedication to delivering unbiased news and ability to present complex issues in an easily digestible format make him an influential voice in the industry.

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