Williams hopes continue strong contributions after performance against Butler

Published on Sunday, 16 January 2022 21:02
Written by CARL ADAMEC

Journal Inquirer

Christyn Williams’ strong postseason performance to complete her junior year had her and the UConn women’s basketball team believing she was ready for a senior season that would live up to all the expectations for a former No. 1 high school recruit.

But in the Huskies’ first 10 games, the Little Rock, Arkansas native’s campaign has mirrored the team’s - up and down, consistently inconsistent.

Game 11 against Butler on Wednesday was more what Williams has been hoping for. While she didn’t shoot the ball all that great in finishing with 19 points, she had four assists to one turnover and a career-high seven steals in the rout of the Bulldogs.

She’ll look for more of the same - or even better - today when No. 10 UConn takes on Xavier in Big East action at the XL Center in Hartford.

“Coach has been on me about impacting the game in more ways than one, specifically defense and getting more steals,” Williams said. “He challenged me to get two steals a game so I kind of took that to heart. People look at me as a scorer and that’s how I look at myself, but there are other things that I can do on the floor as well. So I’ve just been trying to do that these past couple of games.”

Williams is averaging 14.2 points for the Huskies (8-3, 3-0 Big East) on 43.6 shooting from the floor. Her seven steals in 31 minutes Wednesday doubled her season’s total accomplished over 364 minutes.

It was the kind of effort UConn saw last March when it won the Big East tournament title and advanced to its 13th consecutive NCAA Final Four. In the Big East tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena, Williams shut down leading scorers Leilani Correa of St. John’s, Maddie Siegrist of Villanova, and Selena Lott of Marquette. Her strong work against Syracuse’s Kiara Lewis and Iowa’s Caitlin Clark in San Antonio helped pave the way to a trip to the national semifinals. She was named to the conference all-tournament team for the third straight year and to the NCAA River Walk all-regional team.

This season she had a career-high 31 points against Minnesota in the first round of the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament but followed up by shooting 6-for-18 in the semifinals against South Florida and the championship game against South Carolina. Since going 8-for-16 from the floor at Seton Hall Dec. 3, she didn’t shoot over 40 percent again until the last two games against Creighton (5 for 11) and Butler (8 for 18).

“Christyn got a steal in the Creighton game Sunday,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “She kind of came out of nowhere and stole it and went in for a layup. So this past week I made a couple of comments like, ‘What if you get two of those every game? That’s easy, right? Those are four, five six easy points, right? What if you got two offensive rebounds? What if you did these kind of things on a regular basis? What would that do for your game if you got more involved?’ She had a huge impact on the game (Wednesday) in a lot of ways she hasn’t had this entire season.

“It still took her 18 shots to score 19 points. That’s not the type of efficiency that she’s going to want going forward. You need to make more shots. How do you that? Well, if you’re just waiting and obsessing about shooting the ball, and you go through a stretch where the ball’s not going in, you start obsessing about it more and it goes in even less. If you’re doing all these other things it takes your mind off of, ‘I’m shooting it bad. Why? I missed the last three 3-pointers. Why?’ You don’t have time to think about those things because you’re too busy doing all these other things that are impacting the game. I think one way to get that consistency of playing well every night is by focusing on all these other things and then the points come as an added bonus.”

Not only did Williams perform well against Butler, so did her classmates Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Evina Westbrook.

Nelson-Ododa had a season-high of 19 points to go with seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals in 25 minutes. Westbrook came off the bench for the first time in 105 collegiate games and contributed 13 points and four assists with no turnovers - her first game this season without a turnover - in 25 minutes.

“After the Creighton game,” Auriemma said, “I made it a point to say to our three seniors, ‘There’s no easy way to say this, but we need more from you guys. You need to perform better. That’s it. Whatever that means to you, you have to play better.’ That shouldn’t be taken as pressure or a challenge, that’s a statement of fact. Coach said that we need to do more. Hopefully they took it to heart, the three of them, and hopefully this is the start of a beautiful thing.”

It could and should continue against Xavier (6-8, 1-4), which is coming off a loss to Providence on Tuesday. The Musketeers have not beaten a ranked team since taking down Kansas on Nov. 26, 2009. That Xavier team under coach Kevin McGuff advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight before losing a buzzer-beater to Stanford.

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Sunday, 16 January 2022 21:02. Updated: Sunday, 16 January 2022 21:05.