‘We’re going to celebrate this one’: Paige Bueckers leads UConn to 22nd Big East crown!

When the wins have stacked up to the degree they have for the Hall of Famer, who earned his 1,209th victory on Monday and is one of three coaches (Mike Krzyzewski, Tara VanDerveer) with at least 1,200 victories, it’s easy for them to be stacked together and almost taken for granted.

But when you’ve had to deal with what Auriemma’s program has dealt with over the last three seasons — and this weekend in particular — it makes it that much more rewarding.

The Huskies, who were down to just seven players for the final two games of the conference tournament due to Aaliyah Edwards’ nose injury suffered in Saturday’s quarterfinal win over Providence, showed their championship DNA with 11 unanswered points to start the game in what turned into a 78-42 rout over 6-seed Georgetown in Monday’s Big East championship game.

No Azzi Fudd. No Aubrey Griffin. No Caroline Ducharme. No Edwards. And yet, Connecticut completed a 21-0 run through Big East competition this season, beating every single conference opponent by at least 20 points.

“We’re going to celebrate this one,” Auriemma said following his team’s 29th win this season and ninth in a row. “The resilience of this team is remarkable. They inspire me to be better for them.”

UConn guard Paige Bueckers smiles during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Georgetown in the finals of the Big East Conference tournament at Mohegan Sun Arena, Monday, March 11, 2024, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Here are four takeaways from the Huskies’ Big East championship game win over the Hoyas:

1. Paige Bueckers adds to her legacy of greatness, elevating her game even more with Edwards out.

If Caitlin Clark is the best player in women’s college basketball, there’s absolutely no denying who is second in the country right now. The run UConn’s superstar guard just went on in the last 72 hours is as strong of a three-game stretch as you’ll ever see.

Bueckers, who announced she would return for a fifth season after missing all of last year due to a torn ACL, was outstanding night in and night out at Mohegan Sun. In the championship game, she set the tone from the start, totaling 27 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and five blocks when it was all said and done.

Bueckers scored at least 27 in all three games en route to winning the crown, combining for 83 points, four shy of the three-game scoring record in the Big East Tournament.

What’s going right for Bueckers? Well, first and foremost, she doesn’t get anywhere close to the credit she deserves for the defender that she’s become, as the 6-foot guard leads the team with 47 blocks on the season. Combine that with the fact her shot is in such great rhythm – she shot 12-for-24 from beyond the arc in the Big East Tournament – and she averaged 4.3 assists per game, Bueckers is the definition of a complete player.

“This is Paige at her best in totality,” said Auriemma, who said he even feels at times she’s not selfish enough with the ball. “Very few people have affected UConn basketball the way Paige has. She almost single-handedly took us to the Final Four and the national championship game, and it was only two years ago.”

Auriemma said Bueckers realized she needed to step up for the Huskies when Edwards went down with a nose injury in the quarterfinal round, and she did just that.

Bueckers joined Villanova legend Shelly Pennefather (1986-87) and Huskies great Kara Wolters (1995-96) as the only players to ever win multiple Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors.