Women’s Basketball: No. 1 South Carolina escapes No. 5 Huskies, sold-out crowd 

The UConn Women’s basketball team takes on South Carolina at the Hartford XL Center on Sunday, Feb. 5. Despite leading in the first quarter and tying in the second, UConn was defeated 81-77 by South Carolina. This is the first time the two teams have played against each other since the final game of March Madness in 2022, when South Carolina beat UConn. By Erin Knapp

A sold-out crowd at the XL Center is tough to overcome for any team, no matter how many votes you get in the polls. No. 1 South Carolina found this out the hard way Sunday, using everything they had to get out of Hartford with a victory. An exhausted No. 5 Huskies team gave it everything they had, using just six players, but they fell just short in the 81-77 defeat. It’s hard to get too upset about the effort for the Huskies, as they were massively shorthanded.  

“The way the game was played, the way we responded, the way we controlled the tempo, we have a lot to feel good about, once we get past the pain of the loss,” said coach Geno Auriemma. “I feel better now than I did before we played the game. I feel really good about my team now and how they played.” 

National Player of the Year candidate Aaliyah Boston played one of the better games of the season, scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 boards. Her exemplary effort rebounding highlighted what ended up being the biggest difference in the game. The Gamecocks seemed to get every offensive rebound over the tired home squad, grabbing 25 to UConn’s 10.  

“I’m in attack mode,” said Boston. “In the second half, I stayed confident and took good shots.” 

“We have to find a way to defensively be better in the lane both initially and rebounding,” noted Auriemma. “We struggled with that today.” 

Aaliyah Edwards played exceptionally well for the Huskies, notching 25 points and four rebounds. As impressive as her efforts were, she was hurt considerably by foul trouble. She played the entire fourth quarter with four fouls, forcing her to be weaker on the boards in an effort to not foul out. Even though it was a loss, it was still a statement game for the breakout junior, who did everything in her power to will her team to victory.  

“She only played 28 minutes,” noted Auriemma on Edwards. “Two things have to happen. You have to be aware that she has to be careful because she’s in foul trouble and she also has to play really hard to be effective. She showed a lot of different ways to score. She’s had an All-American season. Where would we be without her?” 

Aubrey Griffin also played her heart out, collecting 17 points and four boards. She converted on several three point plays, including one to cut the deficit to three with seconds left, but it just wasn’t enough. In her comeback season after her back injury that derailed last year for her, she’s been a critical player for the Huskies’ success this year.  

“Aubrey [Griffin] came out aggressive from the opening tap,” said Auriemma. “We couldn’t afford to have her wait until halftime to get into another gear today. Her ability to get to the basket was crucial and her defense was very good.” 

Another player who helped with the second-half push was Lou Lopez-Senechal, who scored 19 in the loss. She was exceptional down the stretch, hitting a number of very difficult shots to help UConn stay in the game.  

The Huskies came out of the gate with some firepower. The rowdy XL crowd helped them to an early 18-9 lead that saw blocks and buckets from Nika Muhl, Griffin and Edwards. Muhl’s nine points in the first quarter was an uncharacteristic break from her season average of seven per game, helping take the UConn offense to a different level. Lopez-Senechal beat the quarter buzzer with a wild one handed floater from deep, sending the building into a frenzy.  

The Gamecocks cut the deficit to five with a nice spurt, but Edwards scored four straight to reset the team. South Carolina slowly shaved down UConn’s lead during a very defensive quarter thanks to great play on the offensive glass, ultimately tying it up in the closing seconds of the half.  

“Some of it is the fatigue factor,” Auriemma noted of the slow second frame. “Some of it is that for some inexplicable reason we just stop moving. I don’t know what causes it, but it just happened today. Guys try to just play one on one and it’s just a lot of bad decision making we have to correct. We also didn’t make enough threes today to win.” 

The teams went back and forth to start the half with Edwards and Boston doing much of the scoring. As well as Edwards was playing, she was battling foul trouble, forcing Auriemma to be careful with her playing time. The Gamecocks took the lead and extended it out to six with some great low post play, putting the Huskies in serious danger with moments left in the third. Edwards got a monster and one, but on the next play she picked up her fourth foul. 

Lopez-Senechal reduced the cushion to just two and Brea Beal put it right back to five with her first trey of the game. A major turning point was a technical on Auriemma when he tossed a water bottle on the court, taking the ball away and giving Boston two free throws. She netted four points on the play, giving South Carolina a double-digit lead. An untimely technical for the Gamecocks opened the door for the Huskies late, as they made a comeback effort. Ultimately, Boston’s takeover in the second half proved to be too much, as they won by four.  

The game is more encouraging than discouraging for Connecticut, as they stayed in the game with the best team in the country. It’s not crazy to imagine that they could’ve pulled it out if they had a little more depth, which could come if Caroline Ducharme and Azzi Fudd return before March.  

Auriemma was optimistic about Ducharme’s potential to return in the next few games, while Fudd is likely to return before March, but a timetable is uncertain. Until then, it should be relatively smooth sailing, as they start the last chunk of their season at Marquette this Wednesday, Feb. 8.  


  1. Imagine how UCONN would have played with depth on the bench. I am proud of the effort. These two teams will meet again with a different out come! Go Huskies

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