Paige Bueckers’ UConn women’s basketball career has seen its highs and lows

UConn’s Paige Bueckers celebrates a score against Indiana in a Sweet 16 game March 26 in Bridgeport.

UConn’s Paige Bueckers celebrates a score against Indiana in a Sweet 16 game March 26 in Bridgeport.

Greg Fiume / NCAA Photos via Getty Images

When healthy, Paige Bueckers has been among the best players in college basketball. In fact, even when not healthy — as when she injured her ankle her freshman year against Tennessee — she’s still been among the best players in all of college basketball.

But the UConn women’s basketball point guard, the nation’s top player her freshman year, suffered a devastating injury this week that will leave her on the sidelines for the 2022-23 season. Bueckers tore the ACL in her left leg while playing a pickup basketball game Monday. The tear follows her suffering a tibial plateau fracture and torn meniscus last year — an injury that sidelined Bueckers for 10 weeks last season.

It’s been a career, albeit only a career of two years, of highs and lows for Bueckers. She and the Huskies were poised for a possible run back to the national title game with a squad that was hoping to be fully recovered from injury.

Instead, UConn will have to do without its junior star.

Here’s a look at some of the highs and lows of her career so far:

Highlights

Getting started

The freshman first stepped onto the UConn court with a 17-point performance during a 79-23 blowout of UMass-Lowell on Dec. 12, 2020, at Gampel Pavilion. She also finished with nine rebounds, five steals and five assists. Sure, it was UMass-Lowell, but it was apparent the freshman guard, who started, was ready for the spotlight and making decisions on the court that were wise beyond her years.

Sprained ankle? No problem

Bueckers rolled her ankle with three minutes remaining, but had it taped and returned in time to nail a 3-point shot with 28 seconds on the clock to help the third-ranked Huskies overcome No. 25 Tennessee 67-61 on Jan. 21, 2021. She finished with nine points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

The game, played in Knoxville, was part of We Back Pat Week, honoring legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who died in 2016. It was also UConn’s first visit to Tennessee since 2006.

The injury did linger, however, for the rest of the year. Bueckers would have surgery on it following the season.

For the win

It wasn’t long after that ankle injury that UConn and Bueckers faced the No. 1-ranked South Carolina Gamecocks. The Huskies, the No. 2 team, were led by Bueckers, who had 31 points, six steals, five assists, four rebounds and one block.

The biggest moment of the night, of course, was a 3-pointer in the final seconds of overtime, clinching the win for the Huskies, who hurdled over South Carolina into the No. 1 position.

Impact freshman

Bueckers’ first season was eye-opening.

She became the first freshman to win the Wooden Award and Naismith Trophy while also being named the AP and USBWA Player of the Year.

In 29 games, Bueckers averaged 20 points per game, scoring 581 while topping 20 points 13 times. During a three-game stretch in early February 2021, she topped 30 points three times, scoring 93 in total while shooting .601 from the floor.

The Huskies finished the season 28-2 and fell to Arizona 69-59 in the Final Four.

Welcome back

A difficult 2021-22 season ended with a return to the NCAA title game for the first time since 2016, after UConn, a two-seed, won five straight tournament games and knocked off a No. 1 seed, Stanford, 63-58 in the semifinals.

Bueckers was lights-out in the Elite Eight, scoring 27 points during a 91-87 overtime victory against NC State to get the Huskies into the Final Four. She finished the tournament with 94 points in six games.

Lowlights

First major injury

UConn started the 2021-22 season 5-1, but late in a 73-54 win over Notre Dame on Dec. 5, Bueckers fell to the floor with an injury.

An MRI and CT scan revealed she had suffered a tibial plateau fracture and torn meniscus in the left knee and, following surgery, she missed 10 weeks of her sophomore campaign.

Two streaks end

During Buckers’ absence in the 2021-22 season, UConn was hit with injuries and went 15-4, at one point even dropping out of the top 10 for the first time since the 2005 season.

The Huskies also had two long streaks come to an end.

A 57-44 loss to Georgia Tech in the first game after Bueckers’ injury ended UConn’s streak of 240 straight wins against unranked opponents, and a 72-69 loss to Villanova ended a streak of 169 wins against conference opponents.

Finals defeat

UConn’s run to the 2022 NCAA final was filled with highlights, but ended on a down note when the Huskies were defeated by South Carolina 64-49 in the final.

UConn fell behind 22-8 in the first quarter and never truly recovered, although it did outscore South Carolina 19-13 in the second frame, closing the halftime gap to 35-27.

The loss left the Huskies still hunting for their first national championship since 2016.

Devastation again

Bueckers suffered a torn ACL in her left knee during a pickup game Monday and will miss the entire 2022-23 season, according to a statement from UConn.