Why Geno Auriemma believes opponents get away with fouling UConn star Paige Bueckers: ‘I lose my mind’

STORRS — All-American Paige Bueckers has taken 261 free throws in 81 career games with the UConn women’s basketball team, including five in Saturday’s 86-64 win over Jackson State in an NCAA Tournament Portland 3 Regional first-round game at Gampel Pavilion.

Meanwhile, Iowa guard Caitlin Clark has taken 234 free throws in 34 games her senior year. And USC guard JuJu Watkins has taken 253 in 31 games of her freshman season.

To UConn coach Geno Auriemma, it just doesn’t add up.

“Oh, my God!” Auriemma said. “She’s a whiner, but she has a right to whine. She gets hits …

People don’t believe me from out of town. When you watch how she’s officiated relative to how other people are officiated and her star power, people get away with murder against her.

“That’s why I lose my mind. A bump that’s a foul on her is not a foul on someone else because that’s Paige Bueckers and she’ll score anyway. You get hit, you get hit.

Stamford Advocate on X: "Why Geno Auriemma believes opponents get away with fouling  UConn star Paige Bueckers: 'I lose my mind' https://t.co/INiEQvdjYh" / X

No. I’ve said this, she’s probably the most mis-officiated great player in America today in terms of getting the benefit of the doubt some times.”

Bueckers drew eight fouls against Jackson State, twice in the act of shooting and once after scoring a basket.

But more than once Saturday she took a hit inside and turned to the referees — official Chastity Taylor seemed to be the most common target — with her arms outstretched looking for a call.

If the 2021 national Player of the Year and reigning Big East Player of the Year was frustrated or upset, it didn’t show after the game though the scratches on her shoulder were obvious.

“I don’t know how much I can say on this topic,” Bueckers said with a laugh. “I definitely feel likes teams try to be aggressive with me. They probably know that they can get away with a little bit in terms of the referees can’t call a foul on every possession for the game to continue to flow.

“You won’t get every whistle you want. So I have to continue to not let the officiating or the physical play get to me and play my game.”

Bueckers hasn’t been bothered as she’ll enter No. 3 UConn’s second-round tournament game with sixth-seeded Syracuse Monday averaging 21.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.4 blocked shots in her bounce-back season after missing the 2022-23 campaign with a torn ACL in her left knee.

She’s been named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press and United States Basketball Writers Association.

Her 28 points Saturday matched her NCAA Tournament best set against Baylor in the 2021 Elite Eight. She also had 11 rebounds and seven assists to no turnovers in 35 minutes.

Syracuse, which eliminated Arizona 74-69 here Saturday, will pressure and be physical with her Monday and she’ll have to handle it if the Huskies are to reach the Sweet 16 for a record 30th straight year.

“It’s obvious,” Auriemma said. “Everyone sees it. Everyone knows it. But she can’t get frustrated because then they’ve done their job. Then they’ve gotten her outside her comfort level.

The way you handle it is get a bucket and foul people out. You have to be physical. I’m not saying that she loves playing like that but she’s become better at it.”

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