In the moments after the No. 6 UConn Huskies’ win over Creighton on Wednesday, UConn coach Geno Auriemma had some thoughts about his goals in Saturday’s matchup against No. 14 Villanova. “I want to keep her under 40 [points],” Auriemma said of Maddie Siegrist. Siegrist entered the game averaging better than 29 points and came off a pair of contests where she totaled 89 points and 20 boards.
If that was truly Auriemma’s goal, he more than exceeded it, holding the forward to just 21 points and two rebounds. ‘Holding’ a player to 21 points doesn’t sound too impressive, but the Wildcats go as she does, and it wasn’t enough with the No. 6 Huskies beating them in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 60-51.
Lou Lopez- Sénéchal stole the show on what was supposed to be Siegrist’s day, notching 22 points, four boards and two steals. She shot 50% from the field and 3-7 from deep, perhaps getting back into the rhythm she had before her recent struggles. The team desperately needs her to succeed, as she has been the go-to scorer to get a bucket. Come March, the team will only go as far as Lopez- Sénéchal’s shooting will take them, making it critical that she continues to regain her rhythm.
Aaliyah Edwards didn’t have her best performance, but if you look at her scoring and rebounding it’s not obvious. She posted 13 and 14, respectively, numbers that everyone would be thrilled with last year. However, her 5-16 shooting from the field and six turnovers tell a much different story. She had her shot blocked a few times and grabbed a lot of her own misses, helping inflate her rebounding figures. It’s good to know that the Huskies can win without Edwards playing great, an even bigger testament to the team’s capabilities when she is at the top of her game.
Dorka Juhász also played well, shooting 5-7 en route to 14 points and 10 boards, roughly her season averages. It wasn’t anything special from the forward, as she only connected on four of her eight free throw attempts. It was enough to take the team to victory though and help contain Siegrist.
Aubrey Griffin and Juhász’s pair of buckets each helped the Huskies get out to an early 8-4 lead, but an excellent effort by Siegrist kept the Wildcats in the game. She scored eight of Villanova’s first 10 points, getting inside for a bevy of buckets. Nika Mühl also had a stellar first quarter, dishing out five assists on the team’s way to a 19-15 lead.
A low-scoring second quarter saw neither team look comfortable. Edwards had a lot of trouble finishing a lot of the looks she normally does. Slowly, the Wildcats narrowed their deficit to two before they tied it at 26. Edwards finally got a look to go with less than a minute left and Connecticut went into the locker room up two.
The lack of comfort for both sides continued into the third, perhaps due to their respective foul troubles. Mühl had three for a large chunk of the game and she wasn’t taken out, forcing her to be careful. Despite the struggles, the quarter was a great effort for Caroline Ducharme and Siegrist. The two traded shots in the waning seconds of the period, giving the Huskies a five point lead.
Lopez- Sénéchal ripped off five straight points to open the final frame, creating a double-digit cushion and forcing a timeout. Juhász increased the advantage to 12 on the break, but after that, everything went wrong. The Wildcats opened up a 10-0 run and Ducharme took a whack to the head, not a good sign for the guard who battled a concussion throughout the year.
Edwards ended the drought with a contested layup and Ducharme miraculously came back into the game. Siegrist hit one from the line to cut the deficit to three, but a jumper from Lopez- Sénéchal stabilized things nicely. Lucy Olsen missed both free throws, the final knife in the coffin that gave Connecticut the nine point victory.
The Huskies will get their next chance back in Hartford, Connecticut, when they return to the XL Center to play St. John’s.