Nika Muhl left Thursday's game after hitting her head. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Nika Muhl has had an improved start to the season, averaging double-digit assists and nearly double the amount of steals as last year.

The improvement stems from head coach Geno Auriemma sitting Muhl down and telling her she needed to get better, particularly after Paige Bueckers went down with an ACL injury in the offseason.

“I told her I was gonna bench her ass,” Auriemma told Connecticut Insider. “… We went to breakfast one morning and I just said, ‘Here’s what’s going to happen. You stay the way you are right now; I don’t care if we went down to one guard, you’re not gonna play. If you change the things that I know you can change and we need to change, then you’re gonna have a phenomenal year. So, what’s it going to be?’”

The guard leads the country in assists per game with 11.0 – the only player to average 10 or more. During UConn’s third game this season, she set the team’s single-game assist record with 15.

The 2022 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Muhl has grown into a player that Auriemma says he wouldn’t “trade for anybody.” She’s making better decisions, he says, and is more comfortable on the court.

“Nika’s made a lot of progress,” Auriemma told the media after UConn’s win over Texas on Nov. 14. “She’s matured a lot. She’s grown up a lot. She’s taking things to heart even more so than she did when she already did. She’s taking more responsibility for everything which is great.”

To start the year she’s helped fill the hole that Bueckers has left with her injury, and is making a difference as UConn has taken down some of the top teams in the country and climbed to a No. 3 ranking.

“I feel like it’s a been a process, a long process, and it still is a process,” Mühl said. “There’s ups and downs, this and that, good and bad days, but I’ve gotten better. I’m learning from my mistakes which has been the biggest change for me. And just my teammates having my back, the coaching staff having my back, watching a lot of film, a lot of preparation goes into all this, so there’s still a long way to go but I’m happy with where I’m at.”