Women’s Basketball: No. 5 Huskies overcome slow start to blow out Butler

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Dec 31, 2022; Storrs, Connecticut, USA; UConn Huskies forward Aaliyah Edwards (3), Marquette Golden Eagles guard Rose Nkumu (3) and forward Liza Karlen (32) work for the loose ball in the first half at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Head coach Geno Auriemma and wing Caroline Ducharme were both pregame scratches, but that didn’t stop the UConn Huskies from becoming the top dogs. On Tuesday night in Indianapolis, Connecticut rode 20 points from Aaliyah Edwards to a comfortable victory over the Butler Bulldogs, winning 80-47. 

Edwards didn’t post a double double as she has frequently done this year, but her 20 points and nine boards on 10-12 shooting did the job and more for the Huskies. Despite coming off a down game that saw her post single digits in all statistical categories, Edwards responded against the inferior competition. She demonstrated her guard-like defensive abilities and passing-lane prowess with three steals, each leading to points on the other end. If she’s able to continue this success and recreate it against better teams, she will become all the more deadly.

Nika Muhl had a more well-rounded stat sheet than she’s accustomed to, notching 13 points, six assists and four rebounds. The point total is her second best of the year, while it was tied for the fewest number of assists. Coming into the game, Muhl hadn’t taken more than 10 shots in a contest, with this newfound aggression as a welcome sight for the Huskies. Her passing hasn’t been less sharp, but it has led to fewer assists, as her third straight game below 10. 

Aubrey Griffin played well too, scoring 15 and adding seven boards. She was efficient from the field, shooting 70%, but struggled keeping the ball with five turnovers. Griffin made winning plays, but better teams will not be as forgiving with the excess giveaways. She’s having a career year with the increased run, more than doubling her previous scoring highs. 

UConn opened the game on a resounding 8-0 run and it looked like Butler was going to get run out of their own gym before it even had a chance to get started. Rache McLimore, a local grad student, provided a composed answer with five quick points. Edwards put a quick end to any momentum the Bulldogs could muster, contributing six points to the Huskies’ 10-0 run that had UConn up 15 early. 

Playing as massive underdogs, Butler showed their fight, putting up an 18-8 run to cut the lead to five. After that run, the Huskies outscored the Bulldogs by seven points in the final five minutes of the half, to take a 39-25 point lead into the break.

Connecticut came out of the locker room with major intensity, freeing Lou-Lopez Senechal up for a three. The Huskies went ballistic on the next few possessions defensively, stealing the ball on four of five possessions with all leading to UConn points. This was part of a relentless third quarter that saw the Huskies outscore the Bulldogs 22-7. The fourth quarter saw Connecticut take their feet mostly off the gas, scoring a team-low 16 points and getting benchwarmer Amari Deberry in.

As effortless as this game seemed, it only gets easier as the Huskies stay on the road to face Xavier, a team yet to win a Big East game in five tries.

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