There were star players all over the floor when No. 2 UConn hosted No. 1 South Carolina in Storrs on Monday night, but it was a 5’11 freshman guard who stole the show in a 63-59 overtime win for the Huskies.
It’s a cliche to say Paige Bueckers is no ordinary freshman, but it’s also true. Bueckers was the No. 1 overall recruit in America coming out of Hopkins High School in Minnesota, already owning four gold medals from various international competitions before she arrived at UConn. Bueckers was named Gatorade National Player of the Year and had impressed at Steph Curry’s camp for top high school guards. The hype was real coming into college, and it could have suffocated a lesser player. Instead, Bueckers is showing she’s worthy of the praise with each passing game. Her performance against South Carolina was her best yet.
Bueckers finished with 31 points, five assists, six steals on 14-of-26 shooting from the floor in the UConn win. In a game where both defenses were locking down and putting a lid on the basket, Bueckers was the Huskies’ only double-figures scorer.
With the game on the line, Bueckers hit a three-pointer to seal the win thanks to a ridiculously friendly bounce. When you’re this talented, the ball always seems to find the bottom of the net.
There is nothing lucky about Bueckers’ play lately. She is now the first player in UConn history to score 30+ points in three straight games. Breanna Stewart didn’t do it, neither did Sue Bird, Maya Moore, or Diana Taurasi. Again — she’s only a freshman.
Bueckers’ scoring package is so damn impressive. She’s a ridiculously good shooter. She’s currently hitting 56.9 percent of her field goals, 55.6 percent of his threes (on 4.5 attempts per game), and 80.6 percent of her free throws. It’s not like she’s being spoon-fed open shots, either. Bueckers has to work for everything she gets, whether it’s off the dribble or sprinting around screens.
Bueckers is an elite shooter off movement. To watch UConn is to see her run laps around the court looking for openings in the mid-range or from three. She also has an advanced dribble pull-up game and an impressive floater. Here are a couple examples of Bueckers’ shooting ability off movement:
For a player who isn’t going to win with size, she has a ton of tricks to stockpile buckets in the hurry. The quickness, agility, and touch Bueckers is displaying every game is why she should be a WNBA star eventually.
Here’s what head coach Geno Auriemma said about his star freshman after the game:
“It’s been a long time since one player has had to carry a team as much as she’s had to in some of these games”
Geno Auriemma tries to recall if there has been a freshman at UConn that’s played at the level Paige Bueckers is playing at now pic.twitter.com/b3WbemaQ1o
— UConn Videos (@SNYUConn) February 9, 2021
Let’s not pretend like Bueckers was the only player on the floor. This was a great battle between two terrific teams with tons of future pros. Aliyah Boston was a second-team All-American for South Carolina last season and finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds in the loss. Gamecocks guard Zia Cooke has been getting some WNBA draft hype and finished with 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Credit fellow UConn freshman Aaliyah Edwards for coming off the bench to score eight points.
Bueckers’ career is just getting started. Jump on the bandwagon early. It’s going to be one hell of a ride. Our Huskies community The UConn Blog is clearly enjoying the ride.
█▄ █ █▄ ███▀▀▀▀▀▀▀╬
╬═╬ Just dropped down to say
╬═╬We have Paige Bueckers & u dont
— The UConn Blog (@TheUConnBlog) February 9, 2021
We can’t wait to see what Bueckers does next.