In their first game of the 2022 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament, the UConn Huskies entered with a bang, clobbering the Georgetown Hoyas 84-38. Thanks to a 40-3 run, things were never once in doubt, as they’ll advance to the semifinals tomorrow.
This one started out a bit sloppy for both sides. In the opening minutes, each squad traded turnovers, but the drought was promptly ended by Georgetown’s Ariel Jenkins, who splashed a triple. Less than 20 seconds later, Azzi Fudd got a triple of her own, but Milan Bolden-Morris responded from deep. To end the three-point parade, Christyn Williams nailed one, which was followed by an Aaliyah Edwards putback. Williams continued the run with a steal and score and then a three. Edwards and Williams got a pair of buckets, extending the lead to 18-6. Dorka Juhasz and Olivia Nelson-Ododa each went 1-2 from the line, making it a 19-0 Husky run over the final 7:15 of the first quarter.
“I was feeling it from three and my teammates did a great job getting the ball to me,” Williams mentioned.
The Huskies didn’t stop there. Nika Muhl and Juhasz each added deuces and Evina Westbrook tacked on a long-ball. While Graceann Bennett did hit a singular free throw, Fudd responded with a pump fake and midrange jumper. With the Huskies up 31-7 at this point, little was in doubt. Azzi Fudd then took it upon herself to go on an 8-0 run and Paige Bueckers hit back to back threes. This 40-3 run brought UConn into the half up 43-9, dismantling Georgetown the same way they have done to their previous five opponents.
Maria Clougherty got the second half going with a tough jumper, but Williams and Edwards promptly responded with a pair of layups. Bennett drained one from the top of the key, but as per usual, Edwards got four of her own. If it feels like every time Georgetown gets a bucket, UConn gets three more, you’re not alone. Bueckers got on the fastbreak and hit an and-one layup, giving the Huskies a 40-point lead. The Hoyas got a quick 5-0 run, but Ducharme got four straight back. Bueckers nailed a triple to end the quarter, stretching the lead to 41.
The fourth quarter was of little interest as the Huskies continually worked to grow their lead. A Bueckers three gave UConn a 45-point advantage and benchwarmers Amari DeBerry and Piath Gabriel checked in with just over two minutes left. DeBerry hit a long two on her first possession and then a layup next time down, ending the game on a win for the Huskies with 84-38.
“I thought for the first six or seven minutes, we were okay, then the talent of UConn took over, ” Georgetown coach James Howard noted. They’re playing for a national championship. They aren’t playing for anything else. This is about them finding their chemistry going forward to win. I’m proud of our ladies though.”
PAIGE IS BACK
If there was any doubt amongst UConn fans about whether she is doing well or is back to some semblance of her old self, this should clear things up. In 18 minutes, Bueckers scored 16 points, grabbed five boards and dished out four assists. Despite playing less than half of the game, she seemed to be moving well.
“Paige has come a long way,” Williams noted. “She’s doing a great job coming back from knee surgery. Paige is still Paige. She’s still the same player.”
“It’s hard to say exactly where she is on the timeline,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma noted. “I don’t know how close she is, but I know she’s not there yet. She also got more involved than she did in the first two games. Little by little, it improves everyday. You look at a game like today, she impacts the game in so many different ways. To be able to add somebody like that to your team at this point in the year, it’s pretty significant.”
UConn has been on an absolute tear as of late, winning their last six games by a combined 284 points, averaging out to 47.3 per game. Although they were one player short of having “everyone eat,” they still had four players score in double figures. With the full rotation going for the first time since December, the Huskies are looking about as good as they have this year, as evidenced by these recent contests.
“I feel like the team that we have, we thrive on defense, which helps us out offensively,” Williams said. “We thrive on that and we should be able to play like that every game.”
The Huskies will next suit up tomorrow at 3 p.m. in the semifinal game against the winner of Marquette-DePaul.