Winning is something that the UConn women’s basketball team has historically done pretty well. Before Saturday in their exhibition against Southern Connecticut State, however, they’d gone 229 days without a victory in the States. That calendar is now reset to zero after the Huskies railed the Owls 97-38 to open their campaign.
“I think everyone was able to contribute, which was great,” senior Aaliyah Edwards said. “A lot of people were able to do the little things, which will help us in the long run.”
It wasn’t much of a game at all, but the fans came out to support the cause, with 9,664 people in attendance. Connecticut outrebounded Southern by 28, outshot them by 29% and had 40 more points in the paint. All said, the Huskies exhibited pure domination, and SCSU was the unfortunate victim.
Julianna Bonilla got the scoring started for the Owls with a triple on their opening possession, but Azzi Fudd responded with one of her own. Then followed a layup, an Edwards bucket, a Nika Mühl 3-pointer and much, much more. This culminated in a 20-0 UConn run that left SCSU scoreless for over five minutes.
An Owl layup didn’t do much to halt the bleeding as KK Arnold and Ice Brady each got their first buckets as Huskies with conventional 3-point plays. SCSU started the second frame with a three just as they did in the first. Paige Bueckers answered with a triple and a pair of assists to Edwards, improving the advantage to 28 points.
Delaney Haines notched her 11th point midway through the second when her team only had 14 points. Bueckers added a floater and continued to set up her teammates, fueling a 20-3 run, ending with a Caroline Ducharme splash. Haines closed the half with another three, putting her total at 14 points with SCSU trailing 52-17.
Fudd opened the second half with 13 of the Huskies’ first 19 points of the half, but a bigger highlight was Arnold using some fancy handles to take the ball up before dumping it off to Ducharme. Though there were 10 minutes left at this point, the game was all but over with the Huskies up by 56.
Edwards picked up right from where she left off in her All-American junior season, notching 16 points and 10 boards. She played just over half the game but still asserted her will on the court. This is Edwards’ frontcourt and its success will hinge on how well she’s able to play. If Saturday’s scrimmage provides any indication, she’s set for another monster year.
The other big player down low is redshirt freshman Ice Brady, who had a successful outing. She posted seven and four in 14 minutes, adding a block for good measure. Brady also readily launched a few 3-point attempts, though she connected on none. The Californian will need to fill in the shoes of forward Dorka Juhász, who graduated after a successful pair of seasons in Storrs. As she grows into her role and gets more comfortable with the college game, Brady seems poised to do so.
The other headliner was Bueckers, who played for the first time since the 2022 NCAA national championship. She was limited to 12 minutes—all in the opening half—but the star still showed out. Bueckers recorded seven points, seven dimes and four boards, doing a little bit of everything. Though fans were only treated to a little bit of Bueckers, she picked up right where she left off and impressed.
“That was the plan going in,” said head coach Geno Auriemma on Bueckers’ usage. “Get her feet wet; obviously she hasn’t played in a while. I thought in that respect, she looked really comfortable, she felt really good, she was the same Paige as usual. Maybe a little more animated. She’s happy to be finally playing. Successful day for her.”
After a season where she couldn’t seem to shake the injury bug, Fudd put together a solid performance. The junior was a bit passive to start, but scored 13 of her 18 points in the third quarter, with a trio of deep shots falling in the period. With all the ball-handling on the roster this year, Fudd won’t need to do much on offense but fire up shots, a role that she’s more than capable of thriving in.
“It feels good to be playing injury-free,” Fudd mentioned. “I think being healthy makes it easier to move freely and it affects your mental confidence.
Arnold also performed pretty well, notching six points, three assists and no turnovers in the matchup. She’s situated to be the best of the freshmen this year, playing with confidence and a tight handle. She’ll have this year to show her potential in flashes off the bench and will provide UConn with some critical energy when things go awry.
“That’s who she is,” Auriemma noted on Arnold’s performance. “She’s electric. She creates offensively, defensively. She has an explosiveness about her. She’s a difference-maker in the sense that we don’t have anyone else like her on the team. We haven’t had anyone like her since the days of Moriah [Jefferson] and Crystal [Dangerfield].”
The Huskies will officially kick off their season this Wednesday with a battle against Dayton in Hartford. The Flyers are coached by Tamika Williams-Jeter, who was a key player during Connecticut’s NCAA championship runs in 2000 and 2002.