Women’s Basketball: No. 8 Huskies grind past Marquette behind Lopez Senechal’s 22 points

Dec 31, 2022; Storrs, Connecticut, USA; UConn Huskies guard Caroline Ducharme (33) driv4es the ball against Marquette Golden Eagles forward Liza Karlen (32) in the first half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Every program in the Big East conference plays a different style of basketball. On Wednesday, the No. 8 UConn women’s basketball team used an effective offense and a stifling defense to silence the No. 21 Creighton Blue Jays on the road. Against the Marquette Golden Eagles three days later, a team that had been ranked 24th earlier this season, defense made up for both team’s offensive struggles. 

Either way, UConn came up with the 61-48 home victory to remain undefeated in conference play. While it goes down as a wire-to-wire win for the Huskies, there were times where the Golden Eagles played like they had the lead.

Lou Lopez Senechal has set the tone on offense throughout her five-year collegiate career, and it continued to show in front of the UConn faithful. With Aubrey Griffin in COVID protocol for the second straight game and Azzi Fudd still working her way back from a knee injury, Lopez Senechal scored 22 points while shooting 9-15 from the field and attempting just three shots beyond the arc.

“She is a mature player,” head coach Geno Auriemma said in the postgame press conference. “She does not always give you an amazing game, but she never gives you a bad game either. … We can go to her at moments where we really have to have a bucket.”

The Huskies picked up where they left off offensively, opening the game on a 9-0 run led by two Aaliyah Edwards buckets. Once Marquette took their first timeout however, the rest of the quarter and the game became a defensive standoff. UConn did not score for over two minutes following the timeout and ended the frame with 19 points.

The offensive struggles carried over into the second quarter as the Huskies did not score in the opening five minutes of the frame and the final 2:38 of the half. Despite scoring nine points in less than 150 seconds, UConn’s defense limited the Golden Eagles to 12 points in the frame and allowed them to keep the lead heading into halftime.

13 of Lopez Senechal’s 22 points came in the first half, eight of which came in the first quarter after starting out hot from the field. On top of leading the team in scoring, she was one of two Huskies to score in the second quarter, joining Dorka Juhasz and her four points.

UConn tried to spark some momentum to begin the second half as Lopez Senechal drained her second three, but then Gampel Pavilion fell silent. Almost immediately after Marquette missed a layup and Edwards grabbed the rebound, Juhasz’s knee collided with Chloe Marotta’s knee in the paint. The collision consequently left Juhasz on her hands and knees on the floor and, following a stoppage in play, she required assistance from both players and the athletic trainer to come off the court.

That brought Amari DeBerry into the game, who missed Wednesday’s road contest due to travel issues caused by severe weather in the Buffalo area. The Husky offense could not make a field goal, being limited to two free throws by Edwards while struggling to get a shot off. Exactly two minutes after going down however, Juhasz received a loud applause from the home crowd as she checked back into the game.

Marquette twice cut UConn’s lead down to five during the frame behind multiple buckets by Jordan King, but they could never get any closer than that. Late in the period, the Huskies answered a Golden Eagles’ 5-0 run with one of their own as Nika Muhl dished a sideways pass to Juhasz, who buried the shot from beyond the arc.

After banking two threes in the first quarter and scoring just four points since, Caroline Ducharme turned it up a notch in the fourth. Ducharme made each of UConn’s first three field goals in the period despite numerous responding baskets by Emily La Chappell and Liza Karlen and ultimately finished with nine points in eight minutes. Behind Ducharme’s dominant fourth quarter, the Huskies pulled away for a double-digit win to end the 2022 calendar year.

Ducharme finished with a season-high 19 points and seven boards while shooting 8-13 from the field and 3-6 from downtown. Even though she continues to put an ice pack around her head late in games due to her stiff neck, Ducharme continues to be a valuable asset to the team, whether it is on the bench or in a starting role.

“She has a knack for making a big play when you really need a big play,” Auriemma said about Ducharme. “That is who she is.”

While Lopez Senechal and Ducharme took charge on offense, Juhasz and Edwards finished with nine points apiece. Edwards’ streak of scoring 20 or more points ended at four games despite scoring four points in the first five minutes while Juhasz came up one point short of a double-double. Even though they scored their second fewest points in a game as a team this season, UConn came out victorious as they limited the Golden Eagles to a 34% clip from the field and 28% from beyond the three-point line.

On the other end, Karlen led Marquette with 15 points and six boards while La Chapell had 11 and Marotta picked up 10. Even though she entered the game leading the team in scoring and setting up buckets, King was held to just four points after being limited in the first half and zero assists. Despite picking up eight steals and having a reputation as a defense-heavy team, the Golden Eagles only collected 28 boards, 21 on the defensive glass, and got outrebounded by 11.

The Huskies (11-2, 4-0 Big East) begin 2023 with a two-game conference road trip starting at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Tipoff against the Butler Bulldogs is scheduled for Tuesday, January 3, at 7 p.m. on SNY.

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