UConn women’s basketball opens the season with a resounding win over Dayton as Paige Bueckers returns.

UConn women’s basketball opens the season with a resounding win over Dayton as Paige Bueckers returns.

Caroline Ducharme drained back-to-back 3-pointers. Azzi Fudd made every shot look easy. Aaliyah Edwards grabbed nearly every rebound and put-back layup. And Paige Bueckers, playing in her first game in 584 days, was getting yelled at by head coach Geno Auriemma after committing a foul.

The Huskies officially opened the 2023-24 season Wednesday night at the XL Center with an easy 102-58 win over Dayton. While it was former Husky great Tamika Williams-Jeter’s first time back in Connecticut as head coach of the Flyers, the biggest storyline of the night was the return of the 2021 National Player of the Year.

“Regardless of what it is last year, sitting on the bench, I would have done anything just to be out there and get yelled at,” said Bueckers, who missed all of last season recovering from an ACL injury.

In her first meaningful game for UConn in 584 days, Bueckers scored eight points with seven rebounds, four assists, and one steal in 21 minutes. The star guard started the game but was subbed out nine minutes in after recording both a turnover and a foul within a minute of each other halfway through the first quarter.

UConn women's basketball opens the season with a resounding win over Dayton as Paige Bueckers returns.

“She’s so anxious to play, and she wants to be out there and she wants to do everything and be everywhere,” Auriemma said. “I just think that there’s a certain amount of leadership that we need from her, and, you know, she’s so far ahead of herself, you know, she wants to get it all back on each possession. … She said she likes when I yell at her, so I just want to keep her happy.”

Edwards, last year’s leading scorer, led the Huskies with 23 points (10 of 12) and nine rebounds. Five other Huskies finished in double figures, while freshman KK Arnold led with seven assists and four steals.

All 12 available Huskies played, while sophomore Ayanna Patterson remains out recovering from an offseason knee procedure.

The Huskies led all night, including even before tip-off. Dayton was called for a technical foul before the opening tip after a player checked into the game who was not properly recorded in the scorebook. Fudd made both free throws, and UConn started the game with a 2-0 edge.

Though it took a minute for UConn to get going once the game officially started. The Huskies missed their first five shots before Fudd assisted Edwards on a layup at 8:52 for the first official bucket of the season. Edwards set the pace the whole night, showing why she was named a Third Team All-American last season with her ability to control the paint on both sides of the court.

The Huskies led by 11 five minutes in, and Auriemma brought in his first sub: Arnold.

Yet, Arnold didn’t play like a freshman. The guard out sprinted everyone on the court and used stealthy efficiency to poke out loose balls on defense. Arnold grabbed hold of a loose dribble on defense and sprinted up court for a quick pass to Nika Mühl in the corner to end the first quarter. Two minutes into the second quarter, she intercepted a Dayton pass near half court and sprinted her way to the basket unguarded for an easy open layup to get UConn up by 20.

The freshman (eight points, three rebounds) kept up the intensity on defense, often leading UConn’s full-court press. She recorded seven assists in her first 12 minutes on the floor.

“She’s not shy. She’s not worried about anything. She’s just trying to make plays defensively, offensively,” Auriemma said. “… I want her to play instinctively, and she does. She gets after you on defense, and she attacks you on offense. I think the kid’s gonna be terrific. I just really enjoy watching her play. I’m hoping that this is kinda a normal game for her.”

UConn women's basketball opens the season with a resounding win over Dayton as Paige Bueckers returns.

UConn’s three other newcomers also made their collegiate debuts. Redshirt freshman Ice Brady (three points, three rebounds), who missed all of last season with a dislocated patella, used her size down low to demand a presence under the basket and grab rebounds. The 6-foot-3 forward even looked comfortable attempting shots from the outside as well.

“She was engaged. I think she ran the floor really well. She’s good with the ball in her hands,” Auriemma said. “Again, she’s been around for a year, but this is her first college game. And I’m sure there’s a little bit of all that. But I think you’re gonna see that she stretches the floor a lot.”

Qadence Samuels (11 points) wasted no time in getting shots up, making her first career points off a corner 3-pointer assisted by Bueckers. Ashlynn Shade was everywhere all at once, finishing with four points, three rebounds, and two assists in her UConn debut.

“There were times when it looked like we had a lot of young players on the floor at the same time, and the game looked a different way than it did. And that’s OK,” Auriemma said. “I just want to experiment with as many different looks as I can.”

The Flyers couldn’t keep up with the Huskies and finished the first half 9 of 30 from the floor, with only two players recording four points or more.

UConn was up by 35 less than five minutes into the third quarter and rode out the rest of the way to secure its 28th straight season-opening win. Auriemma emptied his bench with nearly six minutes remaining in the game.

“Right now, on paper, they’re the No. 1 team in the country,” said Williams-Jeter, who played at UConn from 1998-2002 and won two national championships with the Huskies.

The Huskies will have their first test of the season this weekend when they fly out to Raleigh, N.C., to face NC State on Sunday at 3 p.m. (ABC).