UConn is beginning to seem like UConn once more

Don’t look now, however UConn may make a Final Four run within the NCAA ladies’s basketball event.

Go forward and roll your eyes as a result of Geno Auriemma’s program has received a document 11 nationwide championships and gone to an unprecedented 14 consecutive Final Fours, however there was some extent within the season the place the Huskies seemed susceptible.

On Saturday, No. 2 UConn seemed like itself once more, because the Huskies rolled over No. 15 Vermont, 95-52, on their dwelling flooring. While the outcome itself wasn’t surprising, there was an amazing feeling of “UConn is back” after scuffling with an inordinate quantity of stress and adversity this season.

First, there have been the accidents. Several of them, together with to star gamers like Paige Bueckers (ACL) and Azzi Fudd (knee), in addition to Ice Brady (dislocated patella), Carolina Ducharme (concussion) and Dorka Juhasz (damaged thumb, sprained ankle). The Huskies’ depth was so depleted that at instances, they may solely use a six- or seven-player rotation. One of these video games was on Feb. 5 when Auriemma had seven gamers to tackle No. 1 South Carolina. UConn almost received that 2022 nationwide championship rematch, which was performed in Hartford, Conn., however got here up quick in an 81-77 loss.

Then there was Auriemma, who had well being problems with his personal following the loss of life of his mom in December. The coach missed a number of video games whereas feeling “under the weather and run down.”

Things began falling again into place as some gamers returned from their accidents. Perhaps none was extra notable than Fudd, who got here again in time to assist lead her staff to the Big East event title. The former No. 1 general recruit within the class of 2021 missed 14 video games this season due to that pesky knee. When she first harm it in a Dec. 4 loss to Notre Dame, Fudd missed eight video games. She returned for a Jan. 11 win over St. John’s, however was reinjured 4 video games later and missed the remainder of the common season. In Saturday’s win over the Catamounts, she scored simply 5 factors in 28 minutes. Though she’s nonetheless getting again right into a groove on the court docket, her presence alone offers UConn a bonus.

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“Spacing, spacing, spacing,” mentioned Aaliyah Edwards when requested by the ESPN broadcast crew what it means to have Fudd again within the lineup.

Speaking of Edwards, she was unstoppable within the first-round matchup. She scored a career-high 28 factors on 13-of-15 capturing, plus seven rebounds and 5 assists. At halftime, UConn led 53-20 and Edwards already had 18 factors on excellent 8-of-8 capturing; Vermont’s complete staff mixed for 20 factors on 8-of-28 capturing on the break.

[The Caitlin Clark show is off and running at the NCAA Tournament]

Edwards confirmed off her versatility as her pictures got here from all around the flooring, hitting jumpers, driving contained in the paint, getting putbacks and scoring in transition. She, together with Juhasz, who had a double-double with 15 factors and 10 rebounds plus six assists, unfold the ground and made the Catamounts uncomfortable. Ducharme added 12 factors and 5 rebounds whereas Nika Muhl had 9 factors and 10 assists.

As a staff, UConn shot 61.9% from the sector whereas holding Vermont to 33.3%. The Huskies additionally held a major edge in assists (27-13), factors within the paint (54-10) second likelihood factors (15-5), and rebounds (43-19).

Point right here, UConn had some massive wins at the beginning of the season towards Texas, NC State and Iowa, all of whom had been ranked within the prime 10 on the time. Then Fudd went down in December and a promising season took a flip with Auriemma’s well being and some uncharacteristic losses sprinkled right here and there.

Now, when it issues most, the Huskies have their depth again and seem like the almighty UConn groups we’re used to seeing yearly. And so it looks as if a deep tourney run is imminent.

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What else we’re watching 

–Maddy Siegrist did Maddy Siegrist issues as she led No. 4 Villanova to a 76-59 win over No. 13 Cleveland State. Siegrist, who’s the nation’s main scorer and went off for 50 factors in a sport earlier this season, had 35 factors on 15-of-28 capturing. She’s now the fifth participant ever in ladies’s Division I historical past to attain 1,000 factors in a single season. 

–No. 6 North Carolina beat No. 11 St. John’s 61-59 after a wild ending. With the sport tied at 58 with 6.5 seconds left, UNC’s Deja Kelly took the inbound cross and went proper to the ring and drew an and-1. After she made the free throw to offer her staff a three-point lead, Teonni Key fouled St. John’s Danielle Patterson’s three-point try. Luckily for the Tar Heels, Patterson missed two of three free throws with 1.5 seconds left to shut out the sport.

–No. 9 Miami upset No. 8 Oklahoma State, 62-61, in one of the vital thrilling and closest event video games to this point. Led by Haley Cavinder, who scored 12 of her 16 factors within the second half and sank a fateful free throw with 8.9 seconds remaining, the Hurricanes got here again from a 17-point deficit to drag off the win. The comeback was really tied for fifth-largest in NCAA Tournament historical past.

Laken Litman covers faculty soccer, faculty basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She beforehand wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the writer of “Strong Like a Woman,” revealed in spring 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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