Christyn Williams expected to play Wednesday as UConn women’s basketball team faces DePaul

Photo of Mike Anthony

Coach Geno Auriemma expects senior guard Christyn Williams to play Wednesday as the UConn women’s basketball team takes the latest turn in a strange season, into a game at DePaul that was scheduled on the fly.

“I’m looking at least a couple minutes, I don’t know how many, from Christyn,” Auriemma said Tuesday.

Williams has missed the past three games while in COVID-19 protocols. The Huskies (11-4) lost at Oregon to begin that stretch and rebounded with victories over Seton Hall and St. John’s.

The Huskies originally planned to play Thursday at top-ranked South Carolina, a game canceled at South Carolina’s request as the Gamecocks prioritized making up postponed SEC games. The UConn and DePaul administrations, and the Big East, arranged for the Huskies and Blue Demons to meet Wednesday at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, making up for a game originally set for Dec. 31 and postponed to due to COVID issues at UConn.

The Huskies, beset by injuries most of the season, particularly to guards, are hoping to have more players available as January becomes February.

Sophomore Nika Muhl (foot) has returned, forward Aubrey Griffin (back surgery) has been ruled out for the season, Williams’ appears ready to rejoin the team, Azzi Fudd (foot) is increasing her workload and the loose early-February target date for Paige Bueckers’ return after knee surgery is approaching.

Getting Williams back is the first step. She is averaging 14.6 points (second on the team to Bueckers’ 21.1) and 36.1 minutes (second to Bueckers’ 36.3).

Fudd, the nation’s top recruit and a freshman limited to just four games so far, could be next. She last played Nov. 22, in UConn’s loss to South Carolina at the Battle 4 Atlantis.

“They both got a little bit of a workout in yesterday and today so we’ll see how it goes, but if Christyn feels all right tomorrow she’ll be able to give us some minutes, kind of like the way Nika did when she was coming back,” Auriemma said. “Azzi, no. She’s still not ready to go. It’s been a long time since she’s played basketball and it’s going to take a little bit to get back in playing shape. She was out there working on some stuff yesterday and she’s going to work out a little more today and we’ve got to build on it every day.”

Bueckers was injured Dec. 4 against Notre Dame and underwent surgery Dec. 13 to repair an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear in her left knee. UConn estimated her recovery time to be eight weeks (Feb. 7).

The Huskies have been down to the minimum eight scholarship players for some games and the program went three weeks between games (Dec. 19-Jan. 7) due to COVID issues (within UConn and opposing teams).

The absence of so many key players has forced others to emerge. Freshman Caroline Ducharme, for instance, had four points through four games but has 77 in the past four. She scored a career-high 28 Sunday at St. John’s and is averaging 12.1 this season.

Nelson-Ododa had career-highs of 18 rebounds and 10 assists Sunday.

“This is one of those things that typically doesn’t happen here or in a normal UConn season,” senior forward Olivia Nelson-Ododa said. “But I try to look at it like a blessing in disguise. I try to pull the positives from it. I think facing this type of adversity, especially kind of early on in our season, now mid-season, has really helped us. Of course, nobody wants to have teammates out, injuries, COVID protocol, what not. But overall, it’s kind of forced us to grow up in a sense and figure out ways to contribute and get different people involved ... and really take on different responsibilities when we play.”

mike.anthony@hearstmediact.com; @ManthonyHearst