The UConn women’s basketball team is between a rock and a hard place. They thought they had everyone back (excluding Paige Bueckers and Aubrey Griffin) entering their matchup against Tennessee only for Caroline Ducharme to precautionarily be ruled out.
Prior to tipoff Wednesday, Olivia Nelson-Ododa was taken out of the starting lineup. She was not ruled out, but she did not play against Villanova. In similar fashion to the Oregon game, when Christyn Williams tested positive for COVID-19, the Huskies were caught off-guard and upset 72-69, ending their 169-conference game winning streak. Villanova controlled the game from the tipoff, outrebounding the Huskies 37-21 and leading by as much as 19.
This weekend is a critical one for the Huskies (15-5, 9-1 Big East) as they’re playing two teams currently ranked in the top 60 in NET, according to warrennolan.com.
Since being placed in the starting lineup, Azzi Fudd is on fire. She topped a 25-point performance against Tennessee with a 29-point showcase against Villanova. Fudd, who’s averaging 12.7 ppg, is shooting 11-17 from beyond the arc, bumping her three-point percentage up to .510.
Williams was the other double-digit scorer in Wednesday’s heartbreaker, dropping 24 points. Williams, the leading point scorer in Bueckers’ absence, has been a veteran leader and a superstar, scoring in single digits only once since the Notre Dame game. Her 15.2 ppg make her a dangerous threat. Evina Westbrook has been both a bench player and a starter recently, but her 9.4 ppg displays her veteran experience that the Huskies have relied on all season.
Dorka Juhasz brings a balanced attack to the frontcourt, currently averaging 6.6 ppg and 6.1 rpg. The Ohio State transfer has scored four points since her return from injury but will look to improve off those numbers against Big East foes. Aaliyah Edwards fouled out in her last game, but her 6.6 ppg and 4.1 rpg make her a dangerous threat. She will need to stay out of foul trouble against two aggressive teams as the Huskies are limited up front.
Ducharme is currently day-to-day, per head coach Geno Auriemma, while there have been no updates to Nelson-Ododa’s status. Through all the adversity, the Huskies keep battling, “as long as we have five, we should be ready to go,” Williams told the press after Wednesday’s loss.
The DePaul Blue Demons (19-6, 11-3 Big East) made light work of the Providence Friars this past Sunday, bouncing back after a tough loss against Creighton. When these two teams last met, Ducharme’s backfoot bucket with one second left secured the UConn victory.
The Blue Demons are a high-scoring team, averaging 90.2 ppg and not scoring below 65 points in any game this season. The X-factor for the Blue Demons is Aneesah Morrow. The freshman forward is the Big East’s leading scorer, averaging 20.6 ppg with a shooting percentage of .524 from the field. In their last matchup, Morrow dropped 30 points and collected 14 rebounds. Morrow is a dangerous defender for anyone to go up against as she averages 13.4 rpg, first in the conference. Her 142 offensive rebounds and 193 defensive rebounds also lead the Big East by miles.
Sonya Morris is the Blue Devils’ No. 2 scoring threat as her 17.9 ppg ranks third in the conference. She takes more three-point shots than Morrow but is still a problem from inside the paint. In 39 minutes against the Huskies, Morris had 19 points of her own.
The Blue Demons have three other double-digit scorers in Lexi Held (13.9 ppg), Deja Church (also 13.9 ppg) and Darrione Rogers (10.0 ppg). Held shoots just as well from beyond the arc as Morris does, giving DePaul a strong backcourt. Rogers is also averaging 6.2 rebounds a game to provide the Blue Demons with great defense.
DePaul allows over 75 points a game while UConn averages 71.7 per game. The Husky offense will need to be active, and if the scoring is more balanced this time around, then this will be another offensive barnburner.
Marquette (17-5, 10-3 Big East) survived Creighton by three points on Sunday and will put their six-game winning streak on the line Friday against a white-hot Villanova team before playing UConn. This is their first game against each other since the 2021 Big East Championship, when UConn won their 19th title 73-39.
Camryn Taylor scored nearly one out of every three Golden Eagle points, but she transferred to Virginia, leaving Lauren Van Kleunen in charge of the offense. Van Kleunen, who scored six points against UConn, is averaging 14.0 ppg with 6.6 rebounds. As of Thursday, Van Kleunen hasn’t been held to single digits since playing Creighton on January 7. Her three double-doubles make her a dangerous threat.
Marquette is a very defense-heavy team, a complete 180 of DePaul’s gameplan. Liza Karlen is the leading rebounder, with an average of 7.0 rebounds per game to go alongside 9.0 points per game. Karlen has two double-doubles on the season and consistently knows how to crash the glass. Chloe Marotta, meanwhile, collects 6.8 rebounds a game and has two double-doubles of her own.
The Golden Eagles have an aggressive offense to go with their defense. Karissa McLaughlin, a Purdue transfer, scores 13.0 points a game while Jordan King averages 11.4. McLaughlin is a dangerous threat from beyond the arc, shooting a team-leading .448% from three while King attacks the low post and forces turnovers.
This will be a lower-scoring matchup as Marquette only averages 65.9 points a game. Having Nelson-Ododa back on the frontcourt would be critical has the Golden Eagles outrebound their opponents 41.6-31.8 every game.
The grudge rematch against DePaul tips off at 7 p.m. tonight at the Gampel Pavilion on SNY.
The Huskies’ first bout with Marquette commences at 2:30 p.m. EST Sunday on FOX. Both games are available on the UConn Sports Network with live stats provided by StatBroadcast.