Paige Bueckers announces she's staying at UConn on Senior Night (2024)

UConn's Gampel Pavilion celebrated Senior Night on Friday with a long-awaited announcement from star Paige Bueckers.

"Everybody wants me to address the elephant in the room," the former Hopkins star told fans after the game, in video shared widely on social media. "Unfortunately, this will not be my last senior night here at UConn."

Bueckers and her Huskies teammates had just routed Georgetown 85-44 in Storrs, Conn. Bueckers finished with 21 points, 13 of them in the first half, and nearly had a double-double with a season-best eight assists.

Asked by SNY what went into her decision, Bueckers cited "the family camraderie here ... just loving it here, loving my teammates, loving my coaches, me not having the four years I planned out. ... I just feel like I'm not done yet here."

After the game, Bueckers and her teammate showed up at the postgame press availability in sunglasses.

Bueckers, a standout at Hopkins High School, has two seasons of eligibility remaining with the Huskies because of the COVID-19 pandemic and a medical redshirt in 2022-23 due to a torn ACL. She is averaging a team-high 20 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game in 2023-24, and she is shooting 54.1% from the field. Bueckers was recently named to the Naismith Trophy midseason team and is a finalist for the Ann Meyers Drysdale Award for the nation's best shooting guard.

Bueckers was named national player of the year as a freshman, leading the Huskies to the national semifinals where they lost to Arizona. She spent most of her sophom*ore year on the bench with tibia plateau fracture in her left knee, but came back in time to lead the Huskies to the national championship game, where they lost in Minneapolis to South Carolina. She suffered the torn ACL in that same knee before last season and was out the entire year.

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after the game that Bueckers never confirmed her return with him, but hearing her previously talk about her love for UConn, he wasn't shocked, according to a tweet from the Hartford Courant's Emily Adams.

"Paige is very, very bad at making decisions. When we were recruiting her I had to threaten her because she couldn't decide."

Auriemma followed Bueckers' announcement by ending any speculation that he might retire at season's end.

He joked to reporters that he was planning to come back next year as well, "until Paige announced that she's coming back." He then added, "Yeah, I'll be back."

Bueckers, Aaliyah Edwards, Nika Muhl and Aubrey Griffin were all honored Friday. Griffin, who tore an ACL last month, also announced she will be back next season. She is one of five Huskies out for the rest of the season with injuries. The others -- Azzi Fudd, Jana El-Alfy, Caroline Ducharme and Annaya Patterson -- all are expected back. Edwards and Muhl did not announce their plans, but both said, "We're not done yet."

Edwards, Muhl and Griffin each have one year left. But both Edwards and Bueckers have been projected as high first-round picks should they enter the WNBA draft. As international players, Muhl (Croatia) and Edwards (Canada) also have not been able to make the NIL money that has been flowing to their teammates while in college.

Auriemma said he would be surprised if Muhl or Edwards returned for an extra year. Auriemma said he wasn't certain Bueckers would be back, until she announced it to the crowd. "I never pressed her on it either," he said.

Bueckers said Thursday that she is not giving up on winning a national championship this season, despite five decisive losses to top teams -- North Carolina State, UCLA, Texas, Notre Dame and South Carolina. UConn has just four regular-season games remaining including games at home against Creighton on Monday in Hartford and Villanova on Feb. 28 at Gampel.

All three of UConn's active seniors rose to the occasion against Georgetown, led by a team-high 26 points from Edwards. She continued her dominant streak from the opening tip off, logging eight points, five rebounds, two blocks and three steals on 100% shooting in the first quarter. She finished with a season-high 16 rebounds and three assists for her 14th double-double of the season and seventh in the last eight games.

Muhl added another milestone on top of the senior celebration, logging her 600th career assist on a pass to Edwards for a layup with just under four minutes left in the first quarter. She is now fifth all time in UConn's record book, passing 2020 WNBA Rookie of the Year Crystal Dangerfield. She finished with seven points and seven assists plus four rebounds and a steal.

No. 15 UConn (22-5, 14-0 Big East) led wire-to-wire against the Hoyas (16-10, 6-9), opening up a wide margin quickly thanks to a 20-2 run over more than five minutes in the first quarter. All five starters logged at least two made field goals with at least one assist, and every player that saw the court for at least five minutes recorded points.

But as impressive as their offensive production was, the Huskies were perhaps even harder to beat defensively. They generated five turnovers in the first four minutes and had 13 by halftime with 21 of their 46 first-half points coming off turnovers. Edwards led with four steals, but Bueckers and Shade added three apiece and the team finished with 14. Edwards also put up the team's only two blocks. UConn finished with 27 points on 22 forced turnovers while giving up possession just 11 times.

It was a productive night for UConn's entire starting lineup. Ashlynn Shade logged five rebounds on top of her three steals and eight points on 4-for-8 shooting from the field. KK Arnold also added eight points with three rebounds, a steal and an assist. Ice Brady built on her double-double against Xavier with another well-rounded performance off the bench, logging 10 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes on the floor.

However, Auriemma was less active with his rotation than he was in Wednesday's win over the last-place Musketeers. Only Brady played more than 10 minutes off the bench, and she was the only player to check in for more than two minutes over the first three quarters. Even when Shade briefly left the floor with an apparent left ankle injury early in the third quarter, she returned to the game just minutes later when the Huskies had a 21-point lead.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Hartford Courant

Paige Bueckers announces she's staying at UConn on Senior Night (2024)
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