No problems for UConn in win over Xavier

Published on Sunday, 16 January 2022 20:59
Written by CARL ADAMEC

Journal Inquirer

HARTFORD -- The UConn women's basketball team has had its share of heartbreak playing NCAA tournament games in Ohio.

There was the 1998 Elite Eight loss to North Carolina State in Dayton where a 10-point second-half lead slipped away. A year later in Cincinnati, Iowa State stunned the Huskies in the Sweet 16, marking one of the only two seasons since 1993 that UConn has not reached the regional finals. And who will or can forget the 2018 Final Four semifinal in Columbus when Arike Ogunbowale hit a jumper with one second left in overtime to lift Notre Dame to a win that ended the Huskies' bid for a perfect season.

But when it comes to playing teams based in Ohio, UConn has known nothing but success.

Freshman Caroline Ducharme and senior Olivia Nelson-Ododa filled the stat sheet for the 10th-ranked Huskies Saturday as they improved to 40-0 against Ohio-based schools with a 78-41 Big East win over Xavier before an announced crowd of 7,827 at the XL Center.

UConn matched its season-high with three straight wins in an eight-day span after going 20 days without playing a game due to COVID-19 issues.

"Just being in the flow of having games has really helped us," Ducharme said.

"It's been a real struggle for everyone, not just the players and not just at UConn," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's been a national struggle for everyone and you just hope that you can keep playing so that whatever rhythm you can get into you can keep at it. It's not stop and start, stop and start, stop and start.

"We've played three games in a row and that's helped us a lot. Now we have another game Monday and we can look forward to regularly scheduled games. And our team is starting to understand that there are a lot of uncontrollables in their lives. All the whining and complaining and whoa is me doesn't help."

Ducharme finished with 20 points and added seven rebounds, five assists, and four steals.

She was just 6-for-17 shooting from the floor but never got down about it and continued to contribute in other ways.

"Ever since you (media) guys anointed her the next John Havlicek, she's taken it to heart," Auriemma said jokingly. "Today she gave more hip checks than be like John Havlicek.

"Caroline tries to do everything really, really well. She puts a lot of pressure on herself and takes a lot of pride in her performance. She's one of these kids who is not afraid to put it out there. She's going to give you her best every night. Today she didn't shoot the ball all that well. She played a lot of minutes which was good, she rebounded the ball which was good, she was in passing lanes a couple of times which was good. There are times you forget she's a freshman out there. She is more mature than your typical freshman."

Nelson-Ododa had 11 points -- putting her career total at 990, six rebounds, and four assists to go with career highs of eight blocked shots and five steals.

"When you play in games like these you have to almost have a game plan," Auriemma said. "You have to go in and say, 'What do I want to get done today? What do I want to get accomplished?' If you do that I think that you can be pretty successful. For Liv, that includes, 'I have to make a couple of shots, I've got to score in the lane a little bit, I've got to play good defense, I've got to block a couple of shots.' You make that plan and that is a couple of games she's done a good job with that. Maybe that's the start of something."

Christyn Williams was also in double figures for the Huskies with 19 points. Piath Gabriel played the entire fourth quarter and the sophomore center contributed nine points.

UConn (9-3, 4-0 Big East) never trailed.

Williams opened the scoring with a 3-pointer and Ducharme followed with two free throws. A basket by Nelson-Ododa and two hoops by Williams -- the first following a blocked shot and pass from Nika Muhl, the second off of her own steal -- made it 11-0. It was 28-13 after the first quarter.

Ducharme had the first five points in a 10-2 run that pushed the Huskies' advantage to 24. A Williams' trey gave UConn its biggest lead, 48-23 at the break.

Xavier (6-9, 1-5) got no closer as the Huskies scored the first nine points of the third quarter.

"Things are kind of clicking for us now on the defensive end and offensively," Nelson-Ododa said. "Things are running more smooth and we have more of an idea of our roles and where people are supposed to be."

Aanaya Harris had 12 points for Xavier.

UConn's domination of Ohio-based schools starts with its 24-0 record against former Big East and American Athletic Conference foe Cincinnati. The Huskies are 6-0 against Ohio State, 4-0 against Xavier and Dayton, and 1-0 against Toledo and Cleveland State.

The Musketeers will host UConn on Feb. 18.

UConn Class of 2022 recruit Ice Brady, a 6-foot-2 forward from San Diego who signed with the Huskies in November, attended the game with her Cathedral Catholic High teammates. Cathedral Catholic played in the Hoophall Classic in Springfield Friday afternoon.

The Huskies return to action Monday as they travel to Eugene to take on Oregon. The last time the teams met on Feb. 3, the Ducks handed UConn its worse loss at Gampel Pavilion 74-56. Monday's meeting is the back end of a two-game deal between the schools and will serve as a homecoming for Salem, Oregon native Evina Westbrook.

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Sunday, 16 January 2022 20:59. Updated: Sunday, 16 January 2022 21:02.