UConn coach Geno Auriemma says he would rather still be coaching against the late Pat Summitt than moving past her on the all-time wins list.
The Huskies routed Butler 103-35 on Tuesday, giving Auriemma his 1,099th win. The victory leaves him just behind Stanford’s Tara VanDerveer (1,105) and gives him one more than his former rival, Summitt, who died in 2016 at the age of 64. It comes just two days before the Huskies visit Knoxville to take on the Lady Vols.
“I wish she were still coaching and I wish I had to work a lot harder to catch her,” Auriemma said. “It's ironic that it plays out the way it played out, because to be honest with you, I didn't think I'd be coaching long enough to be in this position.”
Olivia Nelson-Ododa led a balanced attack with 18 points for the Huskies, who were playing for the first time in 10 days. Christyn Williams and Aubrey Griffin, who made her first start, each scored 17 points for unbeaten UConn (8-0, 7-0 Big East).
Tennessee transfer Evina Wesbrook chipped in with 14 points and freshman Paige Bueckers had 13 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four steals.
Okako Adika scored 18 points for Butler (1-9, 1-8), despite spending most of the game in foul trouble, and Genesis Parker added 15 points.
The Huskies led 25-15 after a quarter, and used a stifling defense to hold Butler to just 20 points the rest of the game.
Williams stole an inbounds pass and hit a layup just before the halftime buzzer to give the Huskies a 45-20 lead. Adika had 14 of Butler’s 20 first-half points. But she also picked up three fouls.
The Huskies then outscored Butler 58-15 in the second half.
“I think it’s just a mindset that we came out with, especially out of halftime,” Nelson-Ododa said. “Going into the third quarter, we just really focused on not letting them get easy buckets.”
Butler: The Bulldogs came into the game averaging just 54.2 points. Butler had just 13 baskets on 45 shots (25%)
“They make you feel their presence defensively,” coach Kurt Godlevske said. “I thought in the first quarter we did a good job, we got the ball moving, we just missed open shots. You know they’ve been a national prominent team for so long for those reasons.”
UConn: The Huskies limit opponents to an average of 49.7 points and have given up 60 points just once this season, in a 92-65 win over Seton Hall in December.
SHE SAID IT
Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said Tuesday that having Auriemma or anyone else pass Summitt’s win total does not take anything away from her coach and what she was able to do.
“Because it wasn’t about the numbers. It was about her legacy, and it was about who she was as a person and how she uplifted all of us to be better and to give us an opportunity that we have,” Harper said. “That’s what she was all about. She won a lot of games in the process, but her her legacy is so much more than numbers.”
Williams was coming off her worst game ever as a Husky, going scoreless and playing just 14 minutes in an 87-50 win over Providence.
“I'm not going to ever let that happen again,” she said.
Guard Saylor Poffenbarger, who joined the Huskies over the weekend after graduating high school early, was not at Gampel Pavilion. She is completing a medical quarantine. Auriemma says he’s not sure if she will play this season, but is pleased she will at least be able to practice with the Huskies without losing a year of eligibility.
Butler: Butler is scheduled to host No. 19 DePaul on Thursday. That would be the first time the Bulldogs face nationally-ranked teams in back-to-back games since the 2017-18 season.
UConn: The Huskies heads to Knoxville for the first time in 15 years to face No. 25 Tennessee on Thursday.