Paige Bueckers struggled in UConn’s 80-68 loss to Texas on Sunday, which head coach Geno Auriemma attributes to being off her game.
Bueckers had just five points before the half and finished the game with 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting. She also had four rebounds, four assists and two blocks. The 35 minutes were the most she’s played since the 2022 national championship game, which UConn lost to South Carolina.
The 2021 National Player of the Year is still progressing after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. And since Azzi Fudd went down in November with a season-ending ACL and meniscal tear in her right knee, Bueckers has taken on an even greater scoring load, which has forced her into taking shots when they aren’t necessarily there.
“I thought she was lousy today. Quite honestly, I thought she was bad, and I told her that,” Auriemma told CT Insider after the Texas game. “You know, Paige isn’t good when she needs seven dribbles to get a shot off. Paige isn’t good when she’s got to, you know, take on guys one-against-two (or) one-against-three going in the lane. You know, forcing things, hoping to get to the free-throw line. That’s not her game. That’s not who she is.”
Fudd’s injury leaves Bueckers as UConn’s biggest weapon from beyond the arc, where she averages a team-high 43.3 percent. She’s also the only player on the team to have attempted more than 82 shots.
Senior forward Aaliyah Edwards has also stepped up in Fudd’s absence, leading the way with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists against Texas. Auriemma knows he’ll need more from Edwards, Bueckers and the rest of UConn’s healthy players as the team battles injuries once again. With three losses so far this season, the Huskies fell to No. 17 in this week’s AP Top 25, their lowest ranking in 30 years.
“It’s important that we get other people to contribute more and to feel more confident doing what they’re good at, you know. It’s noticeable on the road, you know, how difficult it is for some of these guys. And, again, there’s no substitute,” Auriemma told CT Insider last week. “It’s not possible to beat good teams unless we get more contributions from other people.”