The 11 games that the undefeated UConn women's basketball team has played have shown a lot about the Huskies — especially where their weaknesses and strengths lie. When they're at their best they're nearly unstoppable, but when their lack of depth and developing defense fail them they become vulnerable.
As coach Geno Auriemma said at the beginning of the season, this team isn't as close to perfect as some of his past teams, but this team also has a lot of fight in them. So far, his words have proven to be true.
Here are five takeaways from the first 11 games:
Close games are inevitable
UConn is a really good team -- so good that the Huskies are No. 1 in the country. Despite that, they've played three close games (St. John's, Oklahoma, California) and they're likely to play more as the season progresses. The Huskies have generally ended up in these situations because of their lack of size or struggles on defense.
While UConn fans have seen plenty of double-digit wins, the close games are the kind that help the Huskies prepare for the NCAA Tournament. Auriemma said he prefers tough games early in the season because he can learn where the team stands and what needs to be worked on.
Senior leadership, success drives Huskies
With Napheesa Collier and Katie Lou Samuelson on the team, it's hard to imagine UConn losing. The senior duo has been dominant this season, with Collier recording seven double-doubles and Samuelson notching three consecutive double-doubles while leading the team in scoring. They've been mostly consistent through the first part of the season, routinely taking over in games when younger players were struggling to find their rhythm. Samuelson is averaging 20.1 points and 7.8 rebounds, while Collier is averaging 18.6 points and 10.5 rebounds.
Posting back-to-back performances of 20 points and 11 rebounds in the Huskies’ 2-0 week against Oklahoma and Cal, @UConnWBB's Katie Lou Samuelson is the #AmericanHoops Player of the Week.— American WBB (@American_WBB) December 24, 2018
📝: https://t.co/65W2MJNd7B pic.twitter.com/jEoo7t24a0
New starters getting used to roles
Megan Walker and Christyn Williams are still feeling out their roles in the starting lineup, but both seem to be more comfortable than they were at the beginning of the season.
Williams has increased her scoring to 13.8 points per game, as she's utilized her ability to drive to the basket and score with ease. Her breakout game came against Notre Dame when she put up 28 points, and she's since been working on rebounding more.
As for Walker, she's averaging 10.8 points and 5.9 rebounds. She missed two games with strep throat, re-entering the starting lineup on the Huskies' recent road trip.
Depth remains an issue
UConn's depth was an apparent issue coming into the season, but it has gotten a touch worse. Sophomore Lexi Gordon announced she's transferring from the program. The Huskies are down to 10 players, and with Batouly Camara unavailable with an MCL injury and Walker out those two games, it's clear that depth could become a big factor in UConn's success this season. While it was always a worry, it quickly became a reality. Both Camara and Walker are back now, but keeping players healthy and trying to find consistently reliable players to come off the bench is going to be paramount for UConn in the middle of the season.
Size, defense still problematic
The two problems that have affected UConn early on have been its lack of size and defense. Collier, Samuelson and Walker have all tried to do their part in the lane, but it's not an issue that is going away with some tough matchups still on the schedule. Freshman Olivia Nelson-Ododa has given the Huskies some meaningful minutes off the bench.
The Huskies defense has improved over the course of 11 games, but it can still be inconsistent. The team will look for consistency from now until the tournament.
This article is written by Kelli Stacy from The Hartford Courant and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.