Why Olivia Nelson-Ododa is Key For UConn Women’s Basketball Team

In Nelson-Ododa’s case, that means thriving where she often hasn’t, near the basket in games like this, and also where she often has — with the ball in her hands, drawing post players, and finding open UConn guards for jump shots or drives.

“I think it’s something that’s really just developed over the past four years, especially before coming to college, that I never really did that in that sense in terms of being a facilitator like that,” Nelson-Ododa said of her passing.

“But I think the big part of why I’m able to do that is because of my teammates and just their ability to get open, make the right cuts and kind of just position themselves in a way that they know is best for them to get open and score. So I give a lot of credit to them for that.”

Nelson-Ododa is averaging 9.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 26.9 minutes. She also has a team-high 109 assists, one more than freshman guard Caroline Ducharme. Paige Bueckers had 168 assists in 29 games last season and certainly would be leading the Huskies in that category again if she had not missed 19 games with a knee injury.

Still, Nelson-Ododa being more than a make-or-miss, back-to-the-basket post player helps keep UConn’s offense fluid. Auriemma’s offense has a lot to do with movement off the ball, movement that hasn’t pay off unless someone in the paint can spray that ball in different directions.

Nelson-Ododa has 310 career assists, including 25 as a freshman, 89 as a sophomore and 87 as a junior. She had a team-high 14 rebounds, matching her second-highest total (two other times) of the season, Saturday against Indiana. She had 18 in January against St. John’s.

“You would think that rebounding is something that you take pride in that you do all the time, that you can count on it happening every game,” Auriemma said.

“But the reality of the situation is it doesn’t always happen, for whatever reason. But I do think as you go on in this tournament, really the thing that separates you from the teams that win and the teams that lose are your ability to get more shots than the other team gets. Shots are going to be hard to make in [Monday’s] game, and the more of them you get, the better chance you have.

The less that they get, the better chance you have. So rebounding takes care of both of those things. We have the ability to be a really, really good rebounding team, and [Saturday] we showed it. The great thing about the NCAA Tournament is you don’t get any points for what you did last night, so we’ve got to do it again tomorrow.”