HARTFORD -- Christyn Williams looked like she was going to be different than most freshman. Not only did she step into a starting role with UConn women's basketball from day one, Williams thrived early in her career, scoring in double-figures in 10 of her first 14 games, including a breakout 28-point performance against Notre Dame. Williams seemed like she was going to be above the typical struggles that plague many of the Huskies' freshmen.
Then Williams ran head-first into the dreaded "freshman wall".
After dropping 19 points against Cincinnati in early January, Williams scored just four points total over the next three games. She made just 2-of-18 shots and only averaged 21 minutes per game. Williams recovered briefly with a 12-point game against SMU before slipping again, scoring single-digits for three-straight games while failing to hit a three-pointer.
It's not a coincidence that during that same stretch, UConn struggled as a team. The Huskies fell to Louisville and followed it up with an ugly win at Cincinnati
But suddenly, Williams broke out of the slump and UConn recovered too. In her last three games, she's scored 15 points, nine points and most recently 19 points against No. 11 South Carolina. The Huskies scored 118, 109 and 97 points, respectively, in that same span.
The key for Williams? She just needed to stop thinking.
"Some kids are just thinkers. They think too much and they want to do the right thing all the time. So they're constantly thinking about what they have to do, what they're doing," head coach Geno Auriemma said. "She got caught a little bit in thinking about playing instead of playing. Thinking about 'What should I do when I get [the ball]' instead of just trusting her instincts."
Williams has clearly been paying attention to her coach.
"I'm just trying to get back to playing my game and getting back to my natural instincts instead of overthinking everything," Williams echoed.
It helped that Williams remained acutely aware of her struggles and didn't try to run from them. She knew it was coming eventually.
"I was going to hit that wall at some point," Williams said. "I think it's inevitable in every freshman who goes through it."
While expectations for her may have been skewed by her performance at Notre Dame, that doesn't mean the Huskies aren't expecting big contributions out of her down the stretch. But Auriemma understands she's still a freshman, so he wants to maximize what she does best: Scoring.
"As someone who's a scorer like she is, it'd be a crime to not get her the ball a lot and have her do a lot," he said.
In a strange twist, it's almost always Auriemma trying to get his players to become more well-rounded and expand their games. But here, the roles are reversed with Auriemma telling the freshman to focus on her strengths while Williams herself is looking to expand her impact.
"If you look at the statsheet against Notre Dame, I had what? 28 points? But I didn't have any assists, any rebounds, so I really don't think that was my best game because I didn't do anything else to contribute," she said. "I'd like to have a whole line of stats because points aren't everything."
It's not often a freshman pushes herself to do beyond what her coach is asking of her or downplays a performance that most players dream of having.
But then again, Christyn Williams isn't your typical freshman.