Women’s Basketball: No. 9 Huskies beat Xavier in scrappy senior night contest 


From the senior night festivities recognizing Lou Lopez Senechal and Dorka Juhasz to a sold-out Gampel Pavilion, the No. 9 UConn women’s basketball team had the perfect atmosphere to end their regular season with a blowout win against the Xavier Musketeers. However, the Huskies were far from perfect as they beat the Musketeers 60-51, trailing for parts of the first half against a team that had not won a game in conference play. 

On a night where Connecticut committed 17 turnovers and surrendered 12 points, they still found ways to put points on the board and do just enough on both ends of the floor to grab the win. With Juhasz out of action due to a sprained ankle, Aaliyah Edwards dominated on the glass with 19 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Even though she had six turnovers, this marks the sixth straight game in which Edwards has scored in double figures. 

Two days removed from scoring five points against the DePaul Blue Demons, Lopez Senechal had another bounce back performance as she buried two 3-pointers, finished with 12 points and grabbed six rebounds. The graduate transfer from Fairfield University, who scored 10 of her points in the first half, finished with 28 double-digit performances throughout the regular season. 

UConn started the game with a hot hand as a free throw and two layups gave them a 5-0 advantage over three minutes into the contest. Even with Xavier ending their scoring drought, it initially appeared that the Huskies were on their way to a signature blowout win. But as the opening frame came to a close, the Musketeers cut into the deficit with each shot they made, whether it was a layup from Courtney Prenger or a 3-pointer from Fernanda Ovalle. This put Xavier down two to begin the second quarter, which subsequently turned into a two-point advantage as Ovalle and Prenger each made layups. 

After head coach Geno Auriemma called his first timeout of the game however, a switch seemed to flip on the court as UConn dominated throughout the rest of the second quarter. Over the final eight minutes of the first half, the Huskies outscored the Musketeers 16-2, limiting them to a driving layup from Shelby Calhoun after she grabbed the rebound on the defensive end. UConn made two out of their five 3-pointers during that stretch, but the best moment in a strong second quarter got saved for last.  

As time expired in the first half, Ayanna Patterson grabbed a rebound on the defensive end to start the Huskies’ final possession for her best offensive play of the season. Caroline Ducharme threw the ball over to Patterson, who tossed a heave to the basket that went in as the buzzer sounded. Similar to the start of the second quarter, the Huskies had all of the momentum to begin the third as Edwards scored in the paint within 15 seconds. Up 16 and making shot after shot, UConn seemed to be in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game, but then a nasty and heated collision occurred that seemed to change momentum. 

After weeks of taking hit after hit on both ends of the floor, something snapped in Lopez Senechal after Taylor Smith got charged with an offensive foul near midcourt. In what appeared to be a physical collision, Lopez Senechal looked like she had something to say to Smith following the contact before both teams got sent to their benches. Lopez Senechal got assessed a technical foul, and it provided the spark Xavier needed to avoid getting blown out as they held the Huskies to four points in the final five minutes of the frame. 

UConn’s offensive struggles continued to begin the fourth as they missed four out of their first six shot attempts, which included two wide-open opportunities and three on the first possession of the frame. Even with the game out of reach after Edwards made two buckets and Aubrey Griffin drove for a layup, the Musketeers played as though they had nothing to lose in their regular-season finale. 

With two layups from Prenger in the final two minutes, the Huskies finished their 10th consecutive game with the final result decided by a single-digit margin— a sign of the struggles the team has endured throughout the month of February. Despite claiming the regular season title and everything that they have been through this year, Auriemma knows that the mentality has got to change heading into postseason play. 

“It’s time we stop blaming the injuries, stop blaming the fatigue,” Auriemma commented. “We are who we are.” 

Ducharme finished with 14 points in her first start since December 31, which included three 3-pointers, three rebounds and two assists. On a night where she broke the single-season assists record set by Sue Bird in 2002, Nika Muhl finished with five points, all at the free throw line, and seven dimes. UConn shot 40.4% from the field and outrebounded Xavier 37-30, despite getting only two points from their three-person bench. 

No Musketeer scored in double figures, but Ovalle finished close to that mark with nine points while Scarlett and Prenger each had eight as the former made two of the team’s three shots from downtown. Despite shooting 39.3% from the field and scoring 19 bench points, the Musketeers finished with an 0-20 record in conference play. 

The regular season has concluded for the Huskies, who finish 18-2 in Big East play and with outright possession of their 29th regular season conference championship. Connecticut now has their longest break since Christmas before traveling to Mohegan Sun Arena to compete in the Big East Tournament. As the No. 1 seed, their first game is on Saturday, March 4, at 12 p.m. against the winner of Friday’s contest between the eighth-seeded Butler Bulldogs and the ninth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas, and it will air on FS1. 

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