Women’s Basketball: No. 9 Huskies face toughest conference battles in Big East Tournament 

0
304
The UConn women’s basketball team suffered their fifth loss of the season against St. John’s at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn. on Feb. 21, 2023. The Huskies were not able to fully recover from the six-point deficit in the first quarter. Photo by Staff Photographer Skyler Kim/Daily Campus.

In each of their last nine conference tournaments, the No. 9 UConn women’s basketball team has walked out of Mohegan Sun Arena with the tournament championship in hand. Although they will be playing their conference tournament at the facility for a 10th straight year this weekend, the road to winning another title is much harder than it has ever been for UConn. 

For starters, the Huskies have played one game with at least 10 healthy players as injuries have ravaged their roster all season long. UConn is also sputtering heading into Mohegan Sun Arena, scoring less than 70 points in all but one game since their bout with the No. 1 South Carolina Gamecocks on Feb. 5. Head coach Geno Auriemma hinted in his postgame press conference on Monday that things need to change if the Huskies want to play three Big East Tournament games. 

UConn has the pieces to make another deep run in March, and it starts with getting consistent scoring on offense. Even with the injuries the team has experienced, All-Big East First Team selection Lou Lopez Sénéchal has been that scoring guard throughout the entire season. Lopez Sénéchal has reached double figures all but three times while averaging 15.9 points per contest, but is looking to turn things up a notch in the postseason. In last year’s MAAC Tournament, the Fairfield transfer averaged almost 19 points across three games en route to their fourth-ever conference championship, and she has the potential to exceed those numbers with the Huskies. 

While Dorka Juhász missed the regular season finale, she will most likely return for the first game of the conference tournament. Her return will be critical as the All-Big East Second Team selection averages a double-double at 14.3 ppg and 10 rpg. Even if Juhász is not at 100%, Aaliyah Edwards can carry most of the workload in the frontcourt. The Big East’s Most Improved Player is a force on both ends as she averages 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game while leading the team with 34 blocks.  

While UConn has had a slew of injuries and are showing fatigue, Azzi Fudd might provide a boost if she returns during the tournament as she has warmed up with the team during their past two games. Even if she returns, Auriemma noted that getting the sophomore guard to immediately play at an All-American level is a very tall task. 

As the No. 1 seed, the Huskies (26-5, 18-2 Big East) will play either the eighth-seeded Butler Bulldogs (11-18, 6-14 Big East) or the ninth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas (13-16, 6-14 Big East), who play one day earlier at 11 a.m. It is a tale of two different results against these opponents as UConn blew out the Bulldogs by an average margin of 36.5 points while twice barely squeaking by the Hoyas at an average margin of 11.5 points. 

Butler is playing their best basketball heading into the tournament as they have won four out of their last five games, including a home win against the Seton Hall Pirates. The Bulldogs have a very strong backcourt as Rachel McLimore (11.3 ppg) and Big East All-Freshman Team selection Jessica Carrothers (7.8 ppg) can let shots fly while forcing turnovers in transition. While they run the guard play, Sydney Jaynes (9.4 ppg) and Anna Mortag (7.8 ppg) defend the glass with aggression as they rank in the top two in steals on the team. 

Georgetown is as much of a tough out as any of the eight teams ahead of them in the standings. They have a home win against the Pirates like Butler, but also beat the DePaul Blue Demons at home and kept it close with the Creighton Blue Jays in their first meeting. All-Big East Honorable Mention Kelsey Ransom (12.8 ppg) is a defensive stalwart on top of her offensive strengths as she is second in the conference with 77 steals. Big East Freshman of the Year Kennedy Fauntleroy (11.3 ppg) has the Hoyas’ highest ceiling as she has 71 steals and 84 assists while draining 40 3-pointers. 

If they win Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup, UConn gets a revenge match against one of the teams they lost to in conference play. In both losses, the Huskies scored less than 65 points after giving it their all against tougher opponents three days earlier. With that in mind, UConn needs to bring their A-game on both ends of the floor. 

The Marquette Golden Eagles (20-9, 13-7 Big East) thrive as a defensive-minded team, as proven by the 57.5 points they surrender per contest. The Golden Eagles have three dual-threat stars in Liza Karlen (11.3 ppg, 21 blocks), Chloe Marotta (14.8 ppg, 175 defensive boards) and Jordan King (16.3 ppg, 56 steals), the latter two being named to the All-Big East First Team. Marquette is also developing a young core as All-Freshman Team selections Emily La Chapell (5.1 ppg, 41 assists) and Mackenzie Hare (7.2 ppg, 45 threes) make it even harder for any opponent to contain every single scorer. 

Big East Coach of the Year Joe Tartamella and the St. John’s Red Storm (22-7, 13-7 Big East) began the season undefeated, but tapered off as conference play progressed. The Red Storm are surging at the right time, however, as they upset Connecticut at the XL Center 10 days ago and have won five out of their last seven games. All-Big East First Team selection Jayla Everett (16.1 ppg) has made an immediate impact since transferring from the University of Pittsburgh, leading the team in steals and made 3-pointers. Do not count out All-Big East Honorable Mention Kadaja Bailey (13.4 ppg) or Big East Sixth-Woman of the Year Unique Drake (8.5 ppg with one start) either as both guards can score in bunches. 

The Huskies’ path to their 21st Big East championship begins on Saturday, March 4 at noon on FS1. 

Leave a Reply