Last year, Azzi Fudd drained seven threes as the then-No. 10 UConn women’s basketball team bested the then-No. 7 Tennessee Volunteers at the XL Center. Fudd was unavailable for their next meeting 354 days later, but the rest of the offense stepped up as the Huskies started out hot and prevented a Volunteer comeback while grabbing a big 84-67 win in Rocky Top.
Left off the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year watchlist, Edwards started strong with 10 points in the first quarter on 5-6 shooting, and even though she barely got on the board in the second and fourth, she finished with 25 points and seven rebounds. Edwards has now scored over 20 points in four straight games.
Lou Lopez Sénéchal has been a force on offense all season long, scoring in double figures in every game. She also started the contest hot with nine points on 4-5 shooting in the first, but turned up the intensity with three threes in the second half. That culminated in a season-high 26 points for Lopez Sénéchal, who shot 4-6 from downtown.
UConn came out firing on all cylinders to begin the game with 33 points and 15 field goals in the first quarter, even though both teams went back and forth early. While UConn shot 71% from the field in the frame, Tennessee struggled to produce in bunches on offense. Behind a 6-0 and 7-0 stretch, UConn pulled away from the Volunteers and finished the frame up 16 points, but the game proved to be far from over.
While the Huskies were efficient on both ends of the floor in the first quarter, the Volunteers proved to be the more dominant team throughout the second. The tempo also changed from an offensive shootout to a physical contest as Tennessee started to get the crowd back into the game. Seniors Jordan Horston and Rickea Jackson were unfazed by a quiet first quarter with both players scoring seven points in the frame.
After posting a nearly flawless first quarter, UConn committed eight fouls and seven turnovers as the Volunteers turned a double-digit deficit into a four-point game at the half. While sporting an 8-0 run to end the half, Tennessee’s defense tightened up and allowed the Huskies to score seven points without a bucket in the first and last three minutes of the frame.
Playing fatigued during the quarter did not do any favors for UConn (Ayanna Patterson was the first substitution with four minutes left in the half), but a fired-up head coach Geno Auriemma heading into the locker room and a 15-minute break proved to be the spark the team needed. Physicality continued to reign supreme as both Jackson and Edwards received an intentional foul away from a breakaway chance and fouls were called left and right, one of which got overturned after extensive review. Despite the scrappy play on the court, the Huskies’ offense regained their footing and scored 28 points in the frame. Twice early in the half, the Volunteers made it a two-point game on a second-chance layup, but UConn used a 7-0 run and double-digit outings from Lopez Sénéchal and Edwards to prevent any comeback from happening.
Every time Tennessee made a bucket to trim the deficit to 11 at the beginning of the final frame, UConn answered right back with one of their own that brought the lead back to 13. This continued until Lopez Sénéchal buried a three, and even though the Huskies continued to commit turnovers, they had seemingly done enough to prevent the Volunteers from staging a comeback. Dorka Juhász’s three late in regulation proved to be the dagger as UConn picked up their fourth straight win against Tennessee dating back to 2020 and 12th straight win overall.
On top of Edwards and Lopez Sénéchal, Juhász and Aubrey Griffin scored in double figures with 13 points each while combining for 10 field goals. Playing in Knoxville for the first time (she did not play two years ago), Mühl contributed to the team’s overall success with 14 assists, one shy of her career-high and the school record.
Coming off the bench, Horston matched her season high with 27 points on 10-22 shooting while Jillian Hollingshead finished a board shy of a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Jackson was the biggest contributor in the starting five with 13 points, seven of which came in the second quarter. The Volunteers finished 39.4% from the field despite winning the offensive rebound battle 23-9.
The tough grind continues for the Huskies (19-2, 11-0 Big East) as they resume conference play on Sunday, January 29, against the No. 21 Villanova Wildcats (18-3, 9-1 Big East). This will be UConn’s first ranked matchup since going into Omaha and beating the then 21st-ranked Creighton Blue Jays on December 28. Villanova enters on a nine-game winning streak, most recently beating the Blue Jays 73-57.
The first player that comes to mind when someone thinks about the Wildcats is their National Player of the Year Candidate and the program’s all-time leading scorer Maddy Siegrist. At 28.5 points per game, Siegrist leads both the conference and the nation in scoring, and she has not yet had a game where she scored less than 21 points. On top of shooting 53% from the field and 40.5% from three, Siegrist is a force on defense with a team-leading 26 steals and 9.6 RPG.
Outside of Siegrist, Lucy Olsen and Maddie Burke (8.2 PPG) are the two biggest contributors on offense while Christina Dalce (7.2 RPG, conference-leading 45 blocks) is a force on both ends of the floor. Olsen, who has had a big sophomore season, is the only other double-digit scorer for Villanova at 12.3 PPG while leading the team with 86 assists.
Tipoff between the top two teams in the conference is scheduled for 2 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.