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UConn coach Geno Auriemma keeps Paige Bueckers on minutes restriction

On Nov. 8, Paige Bueckers played her first game for UConn since April 2022. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

Paige Bueckers is back, even if she had what she considers to be a bad game.

For the first time in 584 days, Bueckers played for UConn basketball in the Huskies’ season-opening 102-58 win over Dayton. After missing last season with an ACL injury, the redshirt junior notched 8 points on 3-for-9 shooting, as well as 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal.

“In my opinion it was a bad game for me,” Bueckers said. “But I’m grateful to have a bad game right now.

“I’m still learning how to give myself grace. I’m not ignorant enough to think that it’s going to be a linear trajectory this whole time. I’m super grateful in the fact that I get to go try again on Sunday and be even better on Sunday.”

Bueckers played just 21 minutes in her first game back, and she sat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. But the 21 minutes were still an increase from the 11 she played in a Saturday exhibition game.

“There’s a medical minute restriction and then there’s my restriction. And she’s not gonna like mine,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “She’s so anxious to play, she wants to be out there and she wants to do everything, be everywhere and do everything.”

There is a level of leadership, Auriemma said, that the team requires from her. But he understands that Bueckers is anxious to get back to her old self.

“She’s so far ahead of herself. She wants to get it all back on each possession,” he said, noting that she was trying to do everything. But the depth of UConn’s bench helps Bueckers to not carry the entire load.

“We know that as a team, we have a lot of weapons, and it’s not a one-man team where somebody has to carry more of the load than others,” she added. “It’s a very equal and well-balanced team.”