Nika Muhl continues to rise up UConn's record books despite grueling season
As the story of this season’s UConn women’s team continues to be about their resilience to overcome injuries to their major stars, one of their players is not only becoming a star in her own right but making history along the way.
Nika Mühl dished another nine assists during UConn’s win over Providence on Wednesday night, but what was significant is that she cracked the top 10 in assists for a single season.
With her latest performance, Mühl now has 193 assists, putting her eighth on UConn’s single-season list.
For Mühl, her assist game has grown because she’s learned to be a better listener.
“Listening to what I need to do, although I can work on that even more,” Mühl said after the game. “Trying to pay attention to what coach has to say and what coach wants me to do. And just setting my teammates up in good positions. I've gotten better being confident at doing what I do.”
All that information she’s taken in has paid off for her and UConn. Entering Wednesday, the junior guard has racked up double-digit assists three times in her last five games, and leads the nation with 8.8 assists per game.
These feats are more incredible considering the team has lost their top scorers like Paige Bueckers, Azzi Fudd and Caroline Ducharme for large stretches of time this season. While UConn has continued to play well without their stars, posting a 21-2 record and remaining undefeated in Big East play after Wednesday’s win, coach Geno Auriemma is wary about how the increased minutes and added responsibility is affecting Mühl -- especially on the offensive side of the ball.
“In order to have the kind of game that you're capable of having and in Nika’s case, you need four other people to help you,” he said. “All those 14-15 assists games when Caroline and Azzi were on the receiving end of them… You get a little mentally fatigued because she exerts so much energy on the defensive end as well.
“We don’t have the ability to help her ball-handling wise so she’s got to do all that. It’s not surprising where she’ll go through those spells where it catches up to her. I just want her to keep shooting the ball well because that will make up for a bunch of things.”
Mühl posted 14 points in the grind-it-out win over a game Providence team. It’s the most points she’s scored since dropping 12 points on Jan. 15 against Georgetown.
Despite her low offensive output lately, Mühl believes the team as a whole will move past any fatigue from a grueling year.
“Physically we’re in pretty good shape,” she said. “It would be crazy not to say that this whole stretch with injured players won’t take some kind of mental toll on us. But coach is being super patient and still holding us accountable and to increase that responsibility to not give up.
“Although we’re tired mentally, physically to give our best effort coach is being our peace at the moment knowing what we’re going through and keeping us together. We’ve been stepping up for each other. We’re stepping up for him, he’s been stepping up for us. We’ll get through this.”
UConn will look to continue their current 14-game winning streak when they host No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday. A rematch of last season’s NCAA championship game, a matchup that saw the Gamecocks dominate the Huskies, 64-49.
But as Mühl told SNY’s Maria Marino on Wednesday, while the team will miss their injured players the rest of them will step up like they’ve done all season.
“It’s going to be a great game. They’re a great team, we’re a great team. We’ll see who wins.”