Over the last two seasons, the fifth-ranked UConn women’s basketball team has been plagued by a tidal wave of injuries that never seems to end even when some players return. Despite a 73-37 win against the Xavier Musketeers on Thursday night, a game that saw Chris Dailey improve to 17-0 all-time as acting head coach, the injury list continued to grow.
In the first half, Aaliyah Edwards went flying into two empty seats hustling for a loose ball and almost instantly came back out on the court. Although she stayed in the game immediately after the incident, Edwards did not play the second half with an apparent foot injury. No update has been provided regarding the severity of Edwards’ injury or her status for UConn’s next game on Sunday, but an update is expected to be given on Friday.
“We have tried a lot of things [sage burning and Holy Water, to name a few] and none of them have really seemed to work,” Dailey commented after the game regarding the team’s injury woes.
Edwards’ absence, on top of Caroline Ducharme being in concussion protocol for the second straight game, left the Huskies with seven available players for the second half, but that did not stop them from dominating on both ends of the court.
It almost felt like UConn’s road game against the Creighton Blue Jays last week, one where Edwards pick up 23 points and 20 rebounds in a 25-point victory. Dorka Juhasz almost reached that mark in the 29 minutes she played, picking up 18 points and 17 rebounds.
On top of Juhasz’ multi-faceted performance, Aubrey Griffin lit up the court in her second game back following a bout with COVID-19, leading all players with 19 points and finishing a rebound shy of her fourth double-double this season. But it would be her contributions from the charity stripe that made the most noise as she converted 10 of her 11 attempts.
In each of their past four games, the Huskies began with a big run that forced the other team to burn a timeout in the first five minutes. This contest however was a little different; neither team could get anything going on offense as they shot a combined 2-19 from the field to begin the game.
But coming out of the first media timeout, UConn’s shots began to fall more consistently. Juhasz struck first by scoring on a second-chance layup and then Lou Lopez Senechal came up with a second-chance jumper before Griffin made her first field goal of the game. Not even a three from Mackayla Scarlett could stop the Huskies as Griffin responded in kind with a bucket from downtown.
With their gears in motion, all the offensive struggles that the Huskies had to begin the game evaporated to start the second quarter. Even with Nila Blackford scoring her 1,000th career point on a second-chance layup, UConn made six out of their first eight field goals in the frame to bust the game wide open.
Unlike Edwards against Creighton, Juhasz garnered a first-half double-double after scoring 13 points and collecting 12 boards. She was not alone in her ventures as Griffin ran the floor with 17 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes.
The Huskies kept their offensive momentum rolling in the second half, but it did not feel the same with Edwards not out on the floor. UConn shot 10-25 from the field in the final 20 minutes with five field goals in each quarter as play looked sloppy at times. After committing 10 turnovers in the first half, the Huskies gave Xavier another possession on 12 different occasions in the second, finishing with 22 in the game.
Even in a quieter third quarter, the Huskies managed to pull one more trick out of the hat. Ayanna Patterson tried to take the shot herself with time winding down in the frame, but realizing that she did not have a clear path to the hoop, tossed the rock over to Ines Bettencourt instead. Bettencourt needed no time to adjust as she got her shot off right before the buzzer sounded and came up with the three. While Bettencourt is known for high fiving everyone on the bench after every made three, the entire bench celebrated her shot as the third concluded.
UConn did not have to do much in the fourth quarter, taking just 11 shots from the field with no player making more than one bucket. Even with Xavier attacking the glass more often and scoring more points in the final frame, the Huskies picked up their sixth consecutive wire-to-wire victory.
While Griffin and Juhasz ran the show on both ends of the floor, Lopez Senechal took care of things from the perimeter. UConn made six threes on 18 attempts and Lopez Senechal had half of them as she went 3-8 from deep en route to 15 points. Nika Muhl continued to command the floor as she scored five points and dished out nine assists out of the 21 that were made on the Huskies’ 25 shots.
Taylor Smith led all Musketeers with 13 points and 60% of the team’s made threes while Kaysia Woods picked up five off the bench with one three. Xavier was limited to 16 points in the first half, their lowest offensive output of the season after the first 20 minutes, and shot just 22% from the field. UConn took it to the Musketeers in all aspects of the game, having nearly two rebounds for every one that Xavier had (the totals were 56-27) while outscoring them in the paint 32-12 and on the fast break 21-7.
With their two-game road trip over, the Huskies (13-2, 6-0 Big East) return home for a tougher matchup against a DePaul Blue Demons team led by Aneesah Morrow on Sunday, January 8. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion.