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NCAAW Recap: Bueckers’ game highs in four major categories lead No. 3 UConn to dominant season-opening win

Paige Bueckers scored 17 points, hauled in nine rebounds, dished out five assists and swiped five steals for the UConn Huskies against the UMass Lowell River Hawks on Saturday. She also set the tone by being the first person to score in both halves.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Massachusetts Lowell at Connecticut
Paige Bueckers (with ball) stayed committed to scoring the easy way against UMass Lowell.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UConn Husky freshman Paige Bueckers scored 17 points and dished out five assists on Saturday, but it was her defense and rebounding that really made her stand out in the team’s 79-23 season-opening win over the UMass Lowell River Hawks at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Conn.

Bueckers notched five steals and UConn had 15 as a team. Bueckers’ second steal of the contest came right out of a Lowell timeout and led to her own fast-break layup, which made the score 11-0. UConn scored off her third and fourth steals as well to make the score 52-13 and 56-13, respectively, in the third quarter.

It wasn’t a very competitive game, but it was still good for Bueckers, the No. 1 recruit in the Hoop Gurlz Class of 2020, to get her feet wet.

Bueckers is 5-foot-11, which is tall for a guard, but it was still impressive that her nine rebounds tied her with 6-foot-5 teammate Olivia Nelson-Ododa (12 points, three blocks) for the game high. A friendly bounce and good instincts afterwards led Bueckers’ to the first basket of her college career.

Bueckers’ 17 points and five steals were outright game highs, while her five assists matched teammate Anna Makurat for the game high.

Bueckers did most of her scoring damage with six layups. One of her two made jumpers came in the key and she also made a free throw off an and-1 layup. She did not attempt a single 3-point shot.

In the first quarter, UConn had five steals and 10 fast-break points. It also went 12-of-16 from the field, while Lowell was 3-of-18. The Huskies led 27-7 entering the second frame, which featured a 19-0 run and ended with the home team up 48-13. The Huskies won the third, 14-2, and the fourth, 17-8.

Big East Preseason Player of the Year Christyn Williams led UConn with six points in the third and finished with a total of 10 to go along with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Freshman Mir McLean also finished with 10 points for the winners and had six boards, while Makurat added eight points and seven boards.

Evina Westbrook was held to five points in her first game as a Husky after transferring from the Tennessee Lady Volunteers and sitting out all of last year due to transfer rules. She did, however, have four assists and two steals.

In the end, the River Hawks (0-2) shot 14.8 percent from the field compared to UConn’s 54.7 percent. The teams were a combined 4-of-28 from distance (UConn was 3-of-13) so that wasn’t really a factor. The River Hawks also did a nice job in turning the Huskies over 18 times, but only scored six points off turnovers to UConn’s 28. The Huskies dominated points in the paint (60-14), rebounding (53-29) and fast-break points (29-2).

Nobody on Lowell scored more than three points in the first half. Denise Solis then scored nine of the River Hawks’ 10 second half points to give her a team-high 11.

Next up

UConn: 6:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at Seton Hall Pirates

UMass Lowell: 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 19 at Vermont Catamounts