Storrs, Conn—No.2 UConn beat rival No.24 Notre Dame 73-54 on Sunday at Gampel Pavilion in front of 10,167 fans, but their season just got more difficult with the reigning national player of the year Paige Bueckers going down with a knee injury with 38.5 seconds remaining in the game.
Bueckers dribbled the ball over halfcourt, and her left leg just gave out. She attempted to carry on with the possession before she fell to the hardwood— teammates Evina Westbrook and Amari DeBerry carried her to the Huskies’ bench.
Bueckers was the Huskies top scorer finished the contest with 22 points, five steals, and four assists.
Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma told reporters at the presser that Bueckers suffered a knee injury, but an MRI scheduled for later was needed to determine the extent of the injury.
“It looked like it probably hyperextended, best case scenario,” Auriemma said.
UConn are already down two players in their rotation with injuries to freshman Azzi Fudd, the former national high school player of the year, and junior Aubrey Griffin, who has yet to play this season. In addition, several Conn players are having a difficulty time of putting the ball in the basket, such as senior Christyn Williams, who scored only four points but kept Olivia Miles in check in the second half.
The Husky family is hoping for good news in the coming days regarding their silky smooth guard, who is averaging 21.2 points, 6.2 assists, and 2.7 steals per game for 5-1 UConn.
“When you play enough and you coach enough and you’ve seen enough basketball, you’ve pretty much seen it all and we’ve certainly had our share here of unfortunate things happen,” Auriemma said. “You just kind of shake your head, hope you didn’t see it or what you saw wasn’t as bad as what you think it might be.
“You immediately put yourself in that kid’s shoes and what are they thinking? How are they feeling right now? What’s going through their mind when something like that happens? That’s the part I think really hits you in the pit of your stomach, you know?”
Notre Dame Sonia Citron poured in 19 points and freshman point guard Olivia Miles chipped eight points, eight boards and eight assists for the Irish (7-2), who was down by just seven starting the fourth quarter at 51-44 following a pair of free throws by Citron at the charity stripe.
The Huskies jump started their offense by scoring the first 13 points in the fourth quarter to extend the score to 64-44, getting long 3s from Bueckers and Caroline Ducharme.
UConn is very fortunate to come away with a win with a season-high 21 turnovers, which Auriemma spoke about at the media conference.
“We came out in the second half with a sense of purpose,” he said. “The fact we came out and played the way we played in the fourth quarter, that’s a good sign that we’re making progress.”
Bueckers is averaging 36.3 minutes per game and if she can’t go Thursday night against Georgia Tech, Auriemma has to find someone that will eat up her minutes and be able to knock down some shots consistently on offense, if not the Huskies will be in for a long night.
“She never comes out. She never wants to come out,” Auriemma said, asked why Bueckers was still in the game with less than a minute to play with a comfortable lead. “You’re right. I don’t have an answer for why she was in the game. 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.”
Prior to the game a monument was unveiled outside Gampel Pavilion to honor UConn athletes and coaches who have participated in the Olympic Games in all sports throughout history.
Former UConn women’s basketball players Rebecca Lobo, Kara Wolters, Sue Bird, Swin Cash and Asjha Jones, all gold medal winners during their careers, attended the dedication, as did program alum Jen Rizzotti, who was an assistant coach in the 2020 Games in Tokyo.