In a pair of games against top-five Big East opponents this weekend, the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team brought out the brooms with a pair of convincing wins over DePaul and Marquette, thanks to big performances from grad transfer Dorka Juhasz and freshman Azzi Fudd.
The DePaul game last Friday began with three shot clock malfunctions, causing it to start 10 minutes late. Once this was resolved, the UConn defense proved the clock was in fact functional by forcing a DePaul shot clock violation. On the next possession, Nika Muhl rolled a shot over the rim for the first bucket of the game.
The Huskies jumped out to a quick 12-5 lead, which was headlined by Christyn Williams picking off a pass, which led to a fastbreak two on the other end. But then, Kiera Collier hit a three to cap a 5-0 Blue Demons run, and all of a sudden it was tied at 14. UConn responded with a 11-2 run of its own, thanks to buckets from Muhl, Evina Westbrook and Aaliyah Edwards to close out the quarter.
The teams traded buckets and four-point runs early in the second quarter, but Juhasz extended the UConn lead to nine with an open triple. Westbrook went on a 4-0 run of her own, Juhasz hit another three and all of a sudden it was 42-26 Huskies. Deja Church hit one from deep and then Nika Muhl swatted a shot out of bounds, serving as a perfect representation of the highly defensive quarter. Freshman phenom Aneesah Morrow got her 18th straight double-double of the season, going for 10 points and 10 boards in the first half alone.
Muhl and Juhasz each scored two early to extend the Huskies’ lead, but Church and Morrow stormed back with four of their own. Juhasz got a deuce and on the next play, Edwards converted a tough and-one. Williams followed it up with a blow-by layup, and Church responded with a layup of her own. Williams went 1-2 from the line, but on the next play the Huskies forced another shot clock violation. With UConn up 23, Darionne Rodgers hit a tough triple from the top of the key to cut it to 20 points to finish the third.
Juhasz started the fourth quarter the same way she left off, getting an easy lay-in, which she followed up with a monster snatch-block on the other end. Kendall Holmes responded with a difficult and-one, but she missed the foul shot. Williams responded with a late shot clock shifty layup, and Westbrook stole the ensuing inbounds pass and hit the bunny. The Huskies stayed strong for the final few minutes and picked up the 84-60 victory.
“THE PAST TWO GAMES I WASN’T FINDING MY RHYTHM. I FELT WAY MORE CONFIDENT AND COMFORTABLE COMING BACK TODAY. I WAS FEEDING OFF OF EVERYBODY’S SUCCESS.”Dorka Juhasz
“I thought this was the most complete game we’ve played all season,” Coach Geno Auriemma said.
Dorka Juhasz was the clear-cut star of the show, as the graduate forward hit two threes in her 22-point effort, adding eight rebounds and four assists.
“Dorka’s kinda been beat up since September,” Coach Geno Auriemma said. “Sometimes it’s worse than others. She had a better matchup tonight too. She felt better, looked better and played a lot better too.”
“The past two games I wasn’t finding my rhythm,” Juhasz noted. “I felt way more confident and comfortable coming back today. I was feeding off of everybody’s success.”
In the nationally televised second game of the weekend against Marquette, the Huskies started out on fire. After the Golden Eagles got out to a 6-2 lead early, UConn stormed back with a 10-2 run of its own, thanks to back-to-back threes from Fudd. Marquette answered though, thanks to a 4-0 run that featured a few consecutive inside buckets and stops, evening the score at 12 points apiece. The Golden Eagles roared back with seven unanswered points, featuring a Karissa McLaughlin deep ball. In the Huskies’ final two possessions of the quarter, Williams and Westbrook drilled consecutive threes, cutting the deficit to 21-20.
Both teams had trouble scoring to start the second quarter, but it was a Juhasz three that evened the score at 25-25 with just under seven minutes left. A moment later, Chloe Maratta sent Nika Muhl to the floor on a questionable no-call, and found herself wide open for the wide open mid-range jumper to take the lead. Juhasz answered from 20 feet out on the wing and Westbrook got a steal and score to make it 29-27 Huskies. Liza Karlen went on her own 4-0 run, but a crafty Juhasz layup tied it up to beat the halftime buzzer.
The Huskies and Eagles went back and forth in the early portions of the third, but perhaps the most notable play was a monster Karlen and-one layup that gave Marquette a 41-39 lead. Fudd hit a beautiful half spin layup for the two, evening things up again. Fudd hit a pair of free throws and Edwards missed another layup, although her hustle was there all game. McLaughlin nailed a triple, but Fudd immediately answered to tie things at 45. With just a few seconds to work with, Jordan King drove in the lane and hit a tough two to give the Golden Eagles a 47-45 lead going into the final quarter.
Juhasz opened up the fourth with a huge three pointer, taking a one-point lead. Williams then hit a hesitation move to get her defender in the air then went into the lane for the lay-in. Westbrook added onto the lead with a jumper of her own, making it a 54-49 lead and forcing a Marquette timeout. A few free throws brought Marquette within three, but then Fudd hit a big jumper. Juhasz tipped a pass and the Huskies kicked the ball up to Fudd, who splashed back-to-back threes on opposite wings to extend the advantage to 63-52. The 8-0 Fudd run served as the dagger, and the Huskies ran away with a 72-58 win.
Fudd had one of the best games of her young career Sunday, with 21 points, five rebounds and three assists on 3-for-5 three point shooting, including 15 points in the fourth.
“It’s been remarkable what [Fudd] has been able to do in such a short amount of time,” Auriemma noted. “She’s so much more than a shooter.”