It should be easier for the No. 4 UConn Huskies. Everyone is used to things being much less difficult than they have been this year, but thanks to massive injury troubles and an exhausting schedule, every game feels like a war, no matter the opponent. On Feb. 11, the Huskies played the Georgetown Hoyas, the fourth worst team in the conference. It’s a game the Huskies would have flown through in years past, but the luxury wasn’t there on Saturday as they won 67-58 in a gutsy contest.
The Hoyas got as close as four in the last couple minutes as star Lou Lopez-Senechal fouled out late in the fourth quarter after scoring just five. UConn made just four of 16 tries from deep and turned the ball over 23 times – neither were recipes for success, though, they did dominate the boards 43-23 and shot 23 free throws, which helped the team greatly. Nika Mühl also played the last few minutes with a hurt ankle, which will have to be monitored moving forward.
Dorka Juhasz had a field day on the glass, notching 18 points and 15 rebounds. She was one of the few players who performed well, and they needed it badly. It seemed like she got every board, including the last one that closed the game out. Juhasz only had two fewer defensive rebounds than the Hoyas did as a team, a testament to her effort on that end of the floor.
Aubrey Griffin was one of the other notables, collecting 18 points, six rebounds and four dimes, tied for the team high. With the game coming down to the wire, Griffin swatted away an important shot, helping put the game to bed. How the junior isn’t exhausted with the intensity she puts forth every game is a mystery, but the Huskies cannot afford to have Griffin take her foot off the gas anytime soon.
The Huskies waited until four minutes into the game before converting their first field goal, falling behind 8-1 early. Mühl broke the drought with a three, but picked up her second foul just after. Connecticut looked weak and tired offensively, trailing 17-13 after a quarter.
In a rare showing of second quarter excellence for this team, the Huskies strung together a 9-0 run, which was capped off by another three from Mühl. The Hoyas answered with four straight points, but benchwarmer Amari DeBerry hit an unusual three to get the lead out to seven. A giveaway by DeBerry enabled Georgetown to cut the deficit to just three in the closing seconds of the half.
UConn opened the second half with six unanswered points, looking to run away with it, but Kennedy Fauntleroy poured in a flurry of shots as a part of her 24-point performance, slimming the cushion to three. Immediately after, the Huskies closed out the third quarter on an 11-0 run that saw Griffin score six. This put them ahead by 14, their first comfortable lead in a game since they beat Tennessee over two weeks ago.
Lopez-Senechal had a rough outing that she played mostly in foul trouble, but it was good for her to see a shot go in when she converted an and-one early in the fourth. Fauntleroy hit a three to cut things to just 10 and then another got it to nine. Mühl rolled her ankle badly late in the game and was grimacing in pain, but returned soon after.
Lopez-Senechal picked up her fifth foul with less than three minutes left, forcing Auriemma to turn to Inês Bettencourt up seven. The Hoyas scored to make the UConn lead five, extending their run to 7-0. Bettencourt committed the Huskies’ 23rd turnover of the contest with 50 seconds left and Kelsey Ransom hit a free throw. Griffin got a clutch block that effectively ended the game, UConn leaving with an eight point win.
Things don’t get any easier for the Huskies moving forward as they play host to Creighton this Wednesday, Feb. 15, the third best team in the Big East.