UConn freshman Paige Bueckers finally got a chance to show what she can do at the college level.
Bueckers had 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists in her UConn debut, leading the third-ranked Huskies to a 79-23 victory over UMass-Lowell on Saturday.
Bueckers, last year’s national high school player of the year, also had collected five steals while playing shutdown defense.
“In baseball they would call that a five-tool player,” coach Geno Auriemma said. “If you look at Paige, she’s a five-tool basketball player.”
Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 12 points and nine rebounds for UConn. Christyn Williams added 10 points and seven boards.
Denise Solis finished with 11 points for UMass-Lowell (0-2), which was held to to just eight baskets on 56 shots (14%).
The Huskies shot almost 55% from the floor and dominated every statistical category. They outrebounded the River Hawks 53-29, outscored them 60-14 in the paint and 29-2 on the fast break.
Bueckers scored UConn’s first points of the season, following a missed 3-pointer by Christyn Williams with an offensive rebound and a quick drive through the lane for a layup. The Huskies opened with an 11-0 run.
They led 27-7 after a quarter, and a 19-0 second-quarter run put the game away at 46-9. Bueckers’ driving layup to end the quarter sent the Huskies (1-0) into halftime up 48-13.
She went 8 for 11 from the field while playing 35 minutes.
“I can’t live up to anybody else’s expectations,” Bueckers said. “My expectations are pretty high. I would say it’s higher than what a lot of other people have for me.”
UConn held the River Hawks to a single Solis layup in the third quarter.
Mir McLean (10 points), Aaliyah Edwards (eight points) and Evina Westbrook (five points and four assists) also had strong debuts for the Huskies. McLean and Edwards are freshmen, and Westbrook is a junior transfer from Tennessee.
“We were all excited to play our first game,” McClean said. “We’ve been waiting for a long time, so the anticipation of the first game was really exciting.”
UConn: The Huskies were just happy to get on the court after having four games canceled or postponed after a staff member in the program tested positive for the coronavirus. It was the first game for UConn since it beat Cincinnati on March 9 for the American Athletic Conference tournament title.
UMass-Lowell: Coach Tom Garrick agreed to play this game when he was asked by his wife, UConn assistant coach Shea Ralph. The River Hawks also had to delay the start of their season because of a player’s positive coronavirus test. They lost their first game on Sunday, 88-38 to Boston College.
ALMOST A RECORD
The record for least points scored by a UConn opponent is 20. That 117-20 rout over Quinnipiac occurred in December 1998 in the Braves’ first season as a Division I program.
HE SAID IT
Auriemma called it the strangest game he had ever coached, played in front of more cardboard cutouts of people and dogs than actual fans. Players were allowed four guests at the game, but the teams’ benches provided most of the cheering.
“I looked over one time and I saw my wife and I wasn’t sure if it was her or a cardboard version of her,” Auriemma said. “It was the weirdest thing.”
UConn: The Huskies are scheduled to make their return to the Big East after a seven-year stay in the AAC with a visit to Seton Hall on Tuesday. Their first Big East home game is currently scheduled for Thursday against Creighton.
UMass-Lowell: The River Hawks are scheduled to play back-to-back games at Vermont next Saturday and Sunday.