Women’s Basketball: Carla Berube returns to Storrs as No. 6 Huskies host Princeton 

Uconn beats Providence 98 to 53 making their record 6-0. They now prepare for their next home game on December 8th at 7pm at Gampel. Photo by The Daily Campus.

The injury bug has struck the No. 6 UConn women’s basketball team for a second consecutive season, leaving the team with just eight healthy players heading into their matchup against the Princeton Tigers on Thursday night. Azzi Fudd joined Paige Bueckers, Ice Brady and Dorka Juhász on the injured list after sustaining a knee injury in Sunday’s loss against the No. 5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. After getting checked out by trainers in the first half, Fudd did not return in the second and is now expected to miss three to six weeks. 

With Fudd out of action, Lou Lopez Sénéchal is expected to generate the team’s offense as she is currently averaging 17.4 points a contest at a 48.9% clip. The graduate student has dominated on offense before, seeing as she led the Fairfield Stags in scoring in each of her four seasons. However, leading the Huskies’ offense is a different beast; if she struggles to get going from the floor, then the entire offense is going to suffer. 

Expect Caroline Ducharme to take a big step forward over these next few games in the absence of the team’s leading scorer. When Bueckers went down with a knee injury last season, Ducharme averaged over 19 points a game in an eight-game stretch, and she could do it again with Fudd temporarily out of the picture. Although she is averaging 5.5 points a game due to her ongoing recovery from a stiff neck, a fully healthy Ducharme will do wonders for the team’s production. 

After getting out-rebounded by the Irish, Aaliyah Edwards and Aubrey Griffin will aim to protect the boards with more aggression. Edwards, who averages a double-double with 15.7 points and 10.1 boards a game, has already seen significant improvement from her sophomore year. If she continues to crash the glass and stay out of foul trouble, UConn should be fine in the paint and on defense. 

On that note, defense has been a part of Griffin’s game that has not gone unnoticed since her return from injury. While averaging 11.7 points a contest, Griffin is third on the team with 6.1 boards a game and is tied for the team lead with 15. If she continues to grab double-doubles like she did on Friday, then the Huskies’ defense can shut down any opponent.  

Given UConn’s current situation, Amari DeBerry should see significant minutes in the next few games. The No. 15 recruit of the 2021 class has spent most of her career on the bench, but this could be her time to shine as she has scored 11 points in her last two appearances. 

This evening, Gampel Pavilion is hosting Throwback Night, but the fans in attendance will not be the only people bringing back memories from the late 1990s and early 2000s.  

Carla Berube will make her return to Storrs in her fourth season as the Tigers’ head coach. Berube played under head coach Geno Auriemma and the Huskies from 1993 to 1997, going 132-8 as a player while winning the school’s first national title in 1995 alongside Hall of Famer Rebecca Lobo, current assistant coach Jamelle Elliott, Jennifer Rizzotti and Kara Wolters. 

Prior to coming to Princeton, Berube spent 17 seasons with the Division-III Tufts Jumbos, posting one losing season while finishing as national runners-up in 2016 and 2017. Since being hired in 2019, the Tigers are 52-7 (28-0 in conference play) with an Ivy League tournament championship and two Ivy League regular season titles. 

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would be coaching against UConn,” Berube commented in a media availability on Tuesday. “It is really full circle.” 

This will be Princeton’s (4-2) third game against a Big East opponent this season. The Tigers lost to the Villanova Wildcats 69-59 as Maddy Siegrist had 32 points and bested the Seton Hall Pirates 62-58 three days later. After losing against the No. 16 Texas Longhorns in Austin, Princeton has rattled off two double-digit road wins against the Maine Black Bears and the Towson Tigers. This will be the final contest on their four-game road trip. They return home and play the Delaware Blue Hens on Sunday. 

The Tigers, who were ranked 24thin the preseason poll, have a formidable offense led by three dynamic guards. Running the floor is Kaitlyn Chen, who leads the team in scoring with 14.1 points a game and assists with 28. Julia Cunningham has scored 13 points in three out of her last four games, which is close to her average of 13.1 points. Chen also has 12 steals, 20 assists and a team-leading seven rejections. She can essentially do it all, whether it is on offense or defense. Grace Stone has a quiet 10.7 points on average; regardless, she should not go unnoticed as she has started every game thus far. 

While all of them help contribute on defense as much as they do on offense, nobody rebounds better than Ellie Mitchell. Not only does her 13.7 boards a game (32 total on the offensive end) lead the team by a wide margin, but it also leads the entire Ivy League and is third in the nation behind LSU’s Angel Reese and BYU’s Lauren Gustin. The junior forward has a strong case going for Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year as she leads the team with 25 steals, eight of which came against the Black Bears.  

This is expected to be a defense-minded matchup. Even with Juhász out of action, UConn averages 38.6 rebounds a game while Princeton averages 37.3. Given that both teams allow over 30 boards a game, this should be a good test for rebound-heavy teams in their own conferences. Although both programs love to crash the glass, whoever dominates the boards is going to walk out of Storrs victorious. 

Tipoff in Berube’s homecoming game at Gampel Pavilion is scheduled for 7 p.m. on SNY. 

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