INDIANAPOLIS — Paige Bueckers made the key passes, Aaliyah Edwards handled the boards. The scoring, both stellar freshmen did their share and more for No. 1 Connecticut.
Bueckers set a school record with 14 assists and also had 20 points, Edwards, of Kingston, Ont., added 24 points and 14 rebounds, and UConn routed Butler 97-68 Saturday.
Bueckers, who led the Huskies in scoring, assists, steals and 3-point percentage entering the game, helped them break away from a 29-all tie in the second quarter with her passing and shooting.
Bueckers set a school mark for assists in a season by a freshman with 130 despite fewer games because of the coronavirus pandemic. She topped the previous school record of 13 assists in a game and had seven rebounds with just one turnover.
“Well, I didn’t make many shots, so I had to do something,” said Bueckers, who went 8 for 21 from the field. “When my shots weren’t falling like they normally do, I looked to pass. That’s who I am, a pass-first player who tries to get everyone else involved."
Bueckers noted she went 4 for 12 on 3-pointers and fortunately for her, “I think Aaliyah grabbed seven of those rebounds.”
Edwards made all of her shots — nine field goals, six free throws — until missing her last try from in close with 1:25 left.
“I’m impressed with how she competes,” Huskies coach Geno Auriemma said. "She gives us a presence we didn’t have last year. It makes winning games a little easier when you have someone work that hard on both ends. I’m not surprised with what she is doing.”
Evina Westbrook added 16 points, Christyn Williams 15 and Oliva Nelson-Ododa 11 for UConn (20-1, 17-0 Big East). The Huskies shot 51.4
Genesis Parker scored 18 points for Butler (2-16, 2-15), which lost to UConn by 68 points on Jan. 19. Okako Adika had 14 and Upe Atosu 13 for the Bulldogs.
A layup by Edwards gave UConn the lead for good at 31-29. That started a 24-10 advantage for the rest of the second quarter that gave the Huskies a 53-39 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs were able to stay close by hitting 10 of 21 3-pointers in the first half.
Connecticut: The Huskies, who have already clinched the regular-season title, continue to fine tune for their first Big East Tournament since 2013. UConn, a conference member from 1982-2013, returned to the Big East this year.
Butler: After beating visiting Xavier on Monday, UConn was too much for the Bulldogs. It was much better showing, however, than the 103-35 pounding the Bulldogs took Jan. 19 at UConn. “The last 100 minutes of basketball we’ve played much better, we’ve been more aggressive, we’ve been more active defensively,” Butler coach Kurt Godlevske said. “I thought we had a real opportunity in the first half to make it even more competitive.”
Bueckers came in as the consensus top high school player in the country and has lived up to that billing.
“Paige is a pass-first guard,” Auriemma said. “We’ve have had some freshmen with the ball in their hands that we’re pretty darn good, but maybe they didn’t have the minutes because we had so many good players."
"If someone said she’s a senior, you say she plays like one. She handles the ball and sees the floor like senior. In a world that idolizes scoring and the 3-point shot, to have someone rather pass it to you and have you score, it’s old school.”
UConn will take a 10-game winning streak into its final regular-season game Monday against visiting Marquette.
Butler closes its regular season Monday at No. 24 DePaul.
More AP women’s basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
Mark Ambrogi, The Associated Press