Paige Bueckers, the former Hopkins High School star now playing for national power Connecticut, will be out for an estimated 6-8 weeks after MRI and CT scans revealed a tibial plateau fracture.
The reigning national player of the year suffered the non-contact injury to her left leg during the final minute of Sunday's 73-54 win over Notre Dame. Bueckers was walking the ball up the floor when she suffered the injury, falling in front of the Huskies' bench as a sold-out Gampel Pavilion crowd fell silent. Teammates Amari DeBerry and Evina Westbrook helped carry her off the court.
"Obviously, we're all extremely disappointed for Paige and that she suffered this injury," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. "It would be really hard to describe how much basketball means to Paige and how much her teammates mean to her. Not being able to do the thing that she loves to do, to be there for her teammates, is really difficult for her.
"We've had players get injured in the past and my philosophy here is: I'm not interested in how fast we can get someone back, I'm interested in what's best for them long term. Every decision made will prioritize what's best for Paige and her career. Everyone involved with this program will be there to support Paige through her healing process."
Bueckers posted on Instagram Tuesday afternoon with the caption: "The real will always prevail… Gods plan #BeBackSoon."
Bueckers leads UConn in scoring (21.2 points per game), minutes (36.3), assists (6.2) and steals (2.7), and is second in rebounding (5.5).
A tibial plateau fracture is "a break of the larger lower leg bone below the knee that breaks into the knee joint itself," according to the Reno Orthopedic Center. Though Auriemma said at the time of her injury UConn doctors believed a hyperextension was best-case scenario, there was a fear among onlookers that it could be a ligament tear that would be season-ending.
With a recovery time of 6-8 weeks, Bueckers could target a return in mid- to late-January. UConn has two high-profile games in that span: Jan. 17 versus Oregon in Eugene and a rematch against South Carolina in Columbia on Jan. 27.
UConn is back in action Thursday at Georgia Tech before taking on UCLA Saturday in the Never Forget Tribute Classic and No. 7 Louisville Dec. 19 in the Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“Every decision made will prioritize what's best for Paige and her career. Everyone involved with this program will be there to support Paige through her healing process.”
Bueckers is the third UConn player out with an injury. Freshman Azzi Fudd is sidelined with what Auriemma described as the beginning of a stress reaction in her foot and is supposed to get re-evaluated next week. Junior Aubrey Griffin is also dealing with back issues, as well as a high-ankle sprain and leg problem that have delayed her season debut.
Auriemma said Sunday that part of the reason Bueckers was still in the game with the Huskies up 18 with less than a minute remaining was because, " I don't like our team without her on the court. I mean, I might have to like it if she misses any time."
He'll have to face that reality now while Bueckers recovers. Without her, senior guards Evina Westbrook and Christyn Williams will have to step up with greater consistency on the offensive end. Freshman Caroline Ducharme and sophomore Nika Mühl may also see extended minutes in the backcourt, and Fudd may take on a larger role upon her return.