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What Paige Bueckers’ season-ending injury means for UConn

(Greg Fiume/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Less than an hour after the news of Paige Bueckers’ season-ending injury broke Wednesday, the name “Paige” was already trending on Twitter.

Fans, coaches and players offered their support to the UConn star after the program announced the rising junior had torn her ACL during a pick-up basketball game and would miss the 2022-23 season in its entirety.

Social media made it abundantly clear in a matter of minutes just how important Bueckers is to the game as a whole.

But of course, no one will miss her as much as the Huskies.

“We’re all devastated for Paige,” head coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. “She’s worked really hard to get stronger and healthier this offseason, and this is an unfortunate setback. Paige is obviously an amazing basketball player but she’s a better person and teammate and it’s really unfortunate that this has happened to her. We’ll miss her presence on the court, but she’ll do everything she can to still lead and help her teammates this season. Our program will support Paige through her healing process to help her come back better and stronger.”

Last season provided an example of the stark contrast between UConn with Bueckers and UConn without Bueckers. And this time around, the Huskies don’t have experienced players like Christyn Williams, Olivia Nelson-Ododa or Evina Westbrook to help soften the blow.

When Bueckers injured her knee during a win over Notre Dame on Dec. 5, 2021, the Huskies sputtered, losing to Georgia Tech, Louisville, Oregon and Villanova. The loss to the Wildcats was UConn’s first conference defeat since 2013. When Bueckers returned in February, the Huskies surprised many by advancing all the way to the national championship game, where they lost to South Carolina, 64-49.

Losing Bueckers in the middle of the season proved to be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, UConn suffered uncharacteristic losses without the dynamic guard. But on the other, the rest of the team got stronger in her absence, and that depth was a useful tool down the stretch of the NCAA Tournament.

This time, things are different. The Huskies have more time to make adjustments, but their personnel is limited and young.

UConn returns junior forward Aaliyah Edwards, defensive stopper Nika Mühl, second-year grad student Dorka Juhász and 2021 No. 1 recruit Azzi Fudd.

Sophomore Caroline Ducharme, the No. 5 recruit in her class, also returns after making the most of an increased role as the 2021-22 season progressed.

From there, the roster consists of two freshmen, Ice Brady and Ayanna Patterson; sophomore Amari DeBerry, who averaged 6.2 minutes a game last season; Fairfield grad transfer Lou Lopez Senechal; and redshirt junior Aubrey Griffin, who missed last season with a back injury.

That’s a lot of unknowns. UConn doesn’t generally go through growing pains like other teams do to start seasons, but the perennial powerhouse is entering a new era. Beyond established players like Fudd, Edwards and Juhász, the team will rely on others taking big jumps in 2022-23. That list of potential breakout players starts with Ducharme and Griffin.

Ducharme played consistent minutes last season when Bueckers went down with the knee injury, posting four 20-plus point games, including a career-high 28 against St. John’s in January. By season’s end, Ducharme looked confident for the Huskies, averaging 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. The Massachusetts native came to UConn as a capable scorer, finishing her high school career with 2,092 points despite missing most of her freshman and sophomore seasons due to injury.

“She’s not afraid of the moments,” Auriemma told reporters after Ducharme’s performance against St. John’s. “She just plays. A silver lining, right? Who would have thought that she’d be doing this? Nobody gets hurt, everything stays the way it is, maybe she doesn’t get an opportunity to play this many minutes. We knew she was good, but we found out that she’s really, really good.”

The Huskies will need her to be even better this season.

Griffin is more of an unknown after undergoing back surgery in January and missing the entire 2021-22 season, but she’s also a versatile player with big upside. A five-star recruit in 2019, the athletic 6-foot-1 wing dominated during her senior year at Ossining Senior High School, averaging 28.2 points, 10.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

Griffin played in all 32 games as a freshman at UConn, coming off the bench to average 6.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. As a sophomore, she posted similar numbers while also making her way into the starting lineup five times.

Meanwhile, Fudd, Edwards and Juhász — the three returners who played the most minutes last season — will serve as the team’s core. Fudd, who was named to the 2022 Big East All-Freshman Team, will likely be called upon to lead the Huskies offensively, and her average of 12.1 points per game should increase.

She’s also the most obvious choice to take over at point guard.

Bueckers boasted a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio last year and spent significant time with the ball in her hands. Her absence in the point guard spot may be where the Huskies miss her most.

Last season, Westbrook and Williams took on those duties with Bueckers out, with Mühl serving as another alternative. But the 2022 Big East Defensive Player of the Year is more effective on the other end of the court, so Auriemma likely won’t turn to her regularly unless he has no other options.

UConn will also need to find an on-court leader to take over for Bueckers, but don’t expect her to go silent. Just like last season, she’ll continue to be vocal and lead her team from the sideline. That’s one sure thing in a season of unknowns.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

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