The now-healthy No. 7 UConn is in a good place heading into the Big East tournaments and NCAA tournaments.
Paige Bueckers was her first appearance in over two months, and Christyn Williams scored 16 in her last regular-season game. This led to UConn’s 88-31 win against Providence.
Bueckers was the national player of year and played 13 minutes. She scored two points and had five assists in her second match since her return from the left knee injury that has kept her sidelined since December 5.
Geno Auriemma, coach, said that she expected her to return after testing her knee and not playing. “It would be more of what we have always done — pass first and then worry about scoring later.” “There is nothing new about her actions.”
Since losing to Villanova on February 9, 2009, their first conference match in nearly nine years, UConn has won seven consecutive games with an average of over 39 points.
Dorka Juhasz, a graduate transfer, had 14 points as well as 10 rebounds. This was her eighth double-double season. Azzi Fudd had 14 points, while Olivia Nelson-Ododa added 13.
Janai Crooms scored 12 points for Providence (6-14, 11-18), which was just eight points behind in the January season’s opening meeting. This one saw the Friars held to only 10 baskets (8%) on 55 attempts.
Jim Crowley, Providence coach, said that the team has some flexibility. They play with more urgency. They know the time of year and what they need to do about it. Their urgency level was higher today than it was one month ago, and higher than ours.
The senior-day jitters of the Huskies were evident when they missed their first seven shots on the floor. Nelson-Ododa started the scoring by making a free throw less than two minutes into game.
Connecticut trailed by 4-1 when Williams scored a driving layup. The Huskies scored the last 24 points of the quarter to take full control of the game.
UConn extended their lead to 29-0 before Kylee Sheppard scored a 3-pointer in favor of Providence. In the second quarter, UConn outscored Providence 26-6 and led 51-10 at halftime. Sheppard was injured in the right leg during a rebound attempt and had to leave the game at the end of the third quarter.
Williams stated that the Huskies have seen eight players miss at most two games due to injury or illness and are now feeling confident ahead of their attempt at a 12th national championship.
She said, “I believe we can go further.” We have a lot to offer this team. All we need is for everyone to be healthy. Although we still have much work ahead of the NCAA Tournament, I believe that we have a chance.
Providence: Providence lost the last 31 games against UConn, and now is 21-43. Since January 2013, the Friars have not defeated a ranked opponent.
UConn: UConn presented eight points to seniors Nelson-Ododa Williams, Evina Westbrook, and Williams before the game. Connecticut’s seniors have compiled a record of 114-13. Juhasz, an Ohio State transfer, has one year left to be eligible and has not yet indicated whether she will return to the Huskies next year.
Juhasz’ parents couldn’t make it to the senior-day ceremonies from Hungary so all of UConn’s underclassmen escorted Juhasz to center court. UConn honored Juhasz with the Hungarian national song before the game.
“I just felt so loved,” Juhasz said. It was an extremely emotional moment for me.
Providence: Friday opens play in the Big East Tournament
UConn: Saturday’s 8-9 game will see the Huskies take on the winner from UConn.