She does not command the spotlight, or the floor, like Paige Bueckers. She is not, like Azzi Fudd, a cornerstone of UConn’s future.
But if the Huskies win their 12th national championship on Sunday night, Christyn Williams will have been a big reason — in part because she’s one of the biggest reasons her team is playing in Minneapolis.
Across 135 minutes in UConn’s first five tournament games, the senior guard from Little Rock, Ark., has averaged 14.2 points and 4.2 rebounds. Although she struggled early in Friday’s game against Stanford, a 3-pointer later proved electrifying, and she gave the Huskies offense an early foothold in Monday’s game against top-seeded North Carolina State in a game that ultimately went to double overtime. And in one moment after another, she has stood, poised and calm, to match a clutch shot from behind the arc, or a free throw when UConn very much needed a point or two.
She has also offered a dose of something approaching seen-it-all leadership, even though Sunday’s game will be her first appearance in a national title showdown.
“We’re just going to come out and play like we’ve been playing all season and lead like we’ve been leading all season and throw the first punch and bring a lot of energy and intensity to the game,” Williams said on Saturday of herself and the roster’s other active senior, Evina Westbrook.
“It starts with the seniors,” she added, “so we’re going to bring it.”
It has not been a picture-perfect path this season, Williams acknowledged, after Bueckers got hurt in December and she tried to act as her stand-in.
“I feel like I was called to step up and play that role because she was averaging 20 points,” Williams, a sociology major who also spent part of the season restricted because of coronavirus rules, said this weekend. “I think that kind of backfired for me. I feel like I was trying too hard and trying to force things and it just wasn’t going well. So I just had to look in myself in the mirror and say ‘do what you do best,’ and that’s get to the basket. I kind of got back to that and my shots started falling after I started getting to the basket and picking up on defense.”
Now she is getting ready to hand off the program to Bueckers and Fudd.
“They’re young still, and they just have so much confidence, so I have a lot of confidence in them for the rest of their years here,” she said earlier in the tournament. “I’m really proud that I’ve gotten a chance to play with them this year and last year. But I’m very confident in them. They’ll handle business.”
But she has one last test first.
“I think our team just learned that we can conquer anything,” she said last week. “That double overtime game was very hard, but we stayed composed through it all and we were very poised. I just feel like the biggest thing is we know that we can grind it out when we need to.”