No. 3 UConn returns to Big East, rolls past Seton Hall

College Sports

Connecticut guard Paige Bueckers (5) goes to the basket against Seton Hall guard Desiree Elmore (25) and forward Alexia Allesch (31) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in South Orange, N.J. (AP Photo/Noah K. Murray)

SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. (AP) — Back home in the Big East, it was just like old times for No. 3 Connecticut.

Paige Bueckers scored 25 points in her second game for UConn, and the Huskies beat Seton Hall 92-65 on Tuesday night in its return to its longtime conference.

UConn (2-0, 1-0) rejoined the Big East on July 1 after a seven-year stint in the American Athletic Conference. As members of the Big East from 1982-2013, Connecticut won 19 regular-season and 18 tournament league titles.

“We’re home. We’re back home,” Hall of Fame coach Geno Auriemma said. “You know we’ve been gone a long time and we’re back home. And it felt like home.”

Christyn Williams added 21 points for UConn. Olivia Nelson-Ododa had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds.

UConn led 31-17 in the second quarter before Seton Hall (2-2, 0-1) outscored the Huskies 13-7 in the last part of the half.

Seton Hall pulled within six a couple times early in the third third quarter, but UConn ran away from there. Bueckers took an inbounds pass coast-to-coast with 5.3 seconds left for a three-point play and a 71-47 lead for the Huskies.

“I thought the impressive thing was that she was able to finish in that situation,” Auriemma said. “But I think that’s what allows her — she’s got great vision, don’t get be wrong — but what allows her to get in the lane and be so creative is that she can finish a lot of different ways around the basket and that’s something she’s spent a lot of time on and worked really hard and she’s just good. Some people are just good. She’s just good.”

A humble Bueckers, who was picked as the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year, said she “was just trying to make a play with five seconds left.”

“In the second half we wanted to get back into what we were doing like the first five minutes of the game which was getting transition buckets,” Bueckers said. “And that starts with me pushing the ball so I think that was just the major emphasis coming into the second half.”

UConn only played its second game of the season due to having four games canceled or postponed after a staff member in the program tested positive for the coronavirus.

Lauren Park-Lane scored a career-high 29 points for Seton Hall, and Desiree Elmore had 11 points and seven rebounds before fouling out.

Aaliyah Edwards added 17 points and eight rebounds for Connecticut, which never trailed and led by as many as 29.

MISSING THE FANS

Seton Hall coach Anthony Bozella said he missed the big crowd that usually goes along with a UConn visit.

“I’m glad we played but it’s just missing a lot,” he said.

SERIES HISTORY

UConn improved to 52-10 in the series against Seton Hall, winning the last 32 matchups vs. the Pirates.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Look for UConn to remain at No. 3 unless No. 1 Stanford or No. 2 Louisville stumbles. The Huskies also play Creighton and Xavier this week at home.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The names are different, but it looked a lot like the last time UConn played in the Big East. Bueckers is a budding star.

Seton Hall: After starting 2-0, the Pirates have dropped two in a row. Now comes the rest of Big East play, and they were picked to finish sixth in the league.

UP NEXT

UConn: Host Creighton on Thursday for the Big East home opener.

Seton Hall: Host Marquette on Saturday.

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