With 38.5 seconds remaining in a blowout, soon-to-be victory over longtime rival Notre Dame, Gampel Pavilion should’ve been rocking as star guard Paige Bueckers dribbled down court for her team’s final play of the afternoon. Instead, the crowd went silent after the 2020 Player of the Year’s knee buckled and she dropped to the ground with a non-contact injury.
After the game, head coach Geno Auriemma stressed that the initial hope is that her knee is hyperextended, which would sideline her for some time, but not the rest of the season. We won’t know for sure until her MRI results are shared.
Attention turned to Auriemma postgame for why Bueckers, who has played 38 or more minutes in three of her last four games, was on the court in the final seconds of the 21-point win. “She never wants to come out,” he said, according to The Hartford Courant. “She’s a pain in the ass to have on the bench because all she does is complain about why she’s not playing. And we’ve made a concerted effort in the last three or four games to get her some rest during the game.
“You’re right, I don’t have an answer for why she was in the game. I mean, that could happen anytime. It could happen in practice. It could happen in a game. But I don’t like our team without her on the court. I mean, I might have to like it if she misses any time, but I don’t like the way our team looks when she’s not on the floor.”
That endof Auriemma’s quote is key. Bueckers is the team’s leading scorer and best facilitator, which is why she plays such heavy minutes. But even with her, the Huskies’ offense hasn’t been as strong as it was even a year ago. The team is scoring nearly eight points per 100 possessions less than in 2020-21, and the defense is allowing nearly 16 more points per 100 possessions.
Without Bueckers and No. 1 freshman Azzi Fudd, who is set to have her foot evaluated again next week, UConn could be in some trouble. Fortunately, the team’s schedule eases up with just one top-25 game scheduled until mid-January. Hopefully both players will return by then.
We’re still waiting for results to reveal the severity of the situation, but Bueckers is going to be sidelined for UConn at the same time as Fudd. The Huskies could be vulnerable unless they can find a new offensive identity – and fast.