UConn ladies prepared for March Madness 2023 after powerful season

UNCASVILLE, Conn. — With confetti nonetheless on his shoulders, coach Geno Auriemma walked towards his UConn gamers huddled close by in a semicircle and began to bounce. The Huskies had simply gained their tenth consecutive and twenty eighth general convention event title, and with trophy in hand, Auriemma was making an attempt to do the Griddy, the viral dance pattern. It was extra of a shimmy as he bounced round and flailed his arms. But the Huskies joined in on the enjoyable, egged him on with cheers and sprinkled extra confetti over him, showing pleasantly astounded on the completely relaxed habits of their notoriously demanding coach.

Given the tumultuous season the Huskies have had, beginning March with a championship meant much more than normal.

“For the next couple days, I think we’re just going to take a deep breath and let it all come out,” stated Auriemma, whose 11-time nationwide champion Huskies search their fifteenth consecutive Final Four. “We held a lot in.”

“Complicated” was Auriemma’s phrase of selection final yr when describing the 2021-22 season, when then-reigning nationwide participant of the yr Paige Bueckers missed 19 video games with a knee harm, former No. 1 general recruit Azzi Fudd sat 11 with a foot concern and a slew of different gamers missed time for accidents or sicknesses. Still, UConn managed to remain the course to advance to the nationwide championship match, the place it fell to South Carolina and Auriemma suffered his first loss in an NCAA title sport.

This yr? “I can’t even find one word to describe it,” Auriemma stated.

The finest metaphor that involves thoughts, for him, is a Shakespearean play. Each act accommodates its personal epic story. This season has been eerily much like final yr, nevertheless it’s a stretch nobody was focused on reliving. And whereas acquainted, it got here with added severity, together with private ramifications for Auriemma.

There was the excessive of June, when with their full complement of gamers, optimism abounded in Storrs that the Huskies may avenge their loss within the 2022 nationwide championship sport. The low of August, when Bueckers, trying higher than ever after absolutely recovering from her knee harm, was misplaced for the 2022-23 season to an ACL tear. The excessive of November, when the Huskies established themselves as a nationwide title contender with a number of wins over ranked groups and dominated the Phil Knight Legacy event, with Fudd’s breakout brilliance on full show.

And then, the depths of December, January and February: Fudd, who was an early nationwide participant of the yr contender, injured her knee, returned after which in her second sport again, damage it once more. Players suffered concussions, damaged bones, contracted COVID-19 — leaving, at one level, a possible Final Four-caliber lineup sitting on the bench.

There was the downright weird: Associate head coach Chris Daily fainted on-court earlier than a sport in November. A blizzard prevented a participant from rejoining the crew after the vacations. A sport was postponed in January as a result of the Huskies could not swimsuit up sufficient gamers.

And there was the historic, because the Huskies misplaced back-to-back video games for the primary time in 30 years and gathered uncharacteristic convention losses earlier than they clinched an anticlimactic Big East regular-season title because the postseason neared.

In December, Geno’s mom, Marsiella Auriemma, died at age 91. A run-down Auriemma stepped away on two events, for 4 video games complete, as he processed the loss and targeted on his well being.

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The stretch was so destabilizing it prompted the Naismith Hall of Fame coach to rethink how he has operated for 30-plus years. In an empty locker room within the bowels of Mohegan Sun Arena, he whispered to reporters, “I think we stopped trying to be perfect.”

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That, in fact, appeared counterfactual given how practically flawless UConn performed for many of the Big East event. The Huskies routed Georgetown and Marquette by 30 and 29 factors, respectively, and led No. 10 Villanova by 25 within the closing earlier than the Wildcats made the rating extra respectable within the fourth quarter.

The event wasn’t merely a memo to the remainder of the nation that UConn is in March-mode. It was a conclusion of an act, one Auriemma was thrilled “ended the right way.”

“We had to go through all these [moments of adversity] but I always thought that if we’re going to have to suffer through all this, there’s got to be something good at the end,” Auriemma stated. “And that’s what I kept saying to the team. With everything that happened that was going bad, I said nobody deserves to be dealt this hand. So there must be something at the end.”



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What the following and closing act of the 2022-23 season holds stays to be seen. The UConn customary: Final Four appearances and nationwide championships. And with key gamers again — mainly Fudd, but additionally fellow sophomore Caroline Ducharme — hope has returned to Storrs that UConn could make a significant run. If chalk holds, the No. 2 seed Huskies must get by means of two No. 1 seeds — ACC event champion Virginia Tech and Big Ten regular-season champion Indiana — after which face a rematch of the 2022 title sport towards the undefeated, defending champion and extensively favored Gamecocks.

But as junior guard Nika Mühl informed ESPN: “We’ve been broken so many times this year that we’re unbreakable now.”

Ahead of the Huskies’ first-round matchup towards 15-seed Vermont on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN App), here’s a timeline of all of the issues that went fallacious, and the issues that also managed to go proper, for UConn.

Aug. 1, 2022: Junior Paige Bueckers, the 2021 nationwide participant of the yr, suffers a torn ACL in her left knee throughout a summer season pickup sport. It’s the identical knee she injured eight months prior (a lateral meniscus tear and tibial plateau fracture sidelined her for 19 video games throughout the 2021-22 season). UConn pronounces the season-ending harm two days later and the guard undergoes surgical procedure that week.

Aug. 26, 2022: Looking to shore up backcourt depth, the Huskies announce a late addition to the freshman class in Inês Bettencourt from Portugal. In a span of 9 days, Bettencourt went from meaning to play on the Northwest Florida State College to being recruited by and signing with UConn. Quipped Auriemma: “The flight over took longer than the recruiting process.”

Oct. 18, 2022: Junior Aaliyah Edwards reveals she had her nostril damaged in follow just a few weeks in the past after taking an elbow from Mühl. Edwards wears a face masks when the season begins — and decides to maintain enjoying with it even after it’s now not wanted.

Oct. 26, 2022: UConn pronounces freshman Ice Brady has dislocated her patella, underwent surgical procedure and is dominated out for the 2022-23 season. Brady was the No. 5 general recruit within the class of 2022, per ESPN.

Nov. 10, 2022: The Huskies rout Northeastern 98-39 of their season opener, however sophomore Caroline Ducharme misses the sport as a result of neck stiffness. She makes her season debut in UConn’s second sport of the season, versus Texas.

Nov. 14, 2022: UConn beats then-No. 3 Texas 83-76, however graduate scholar Dorka Juhász breaks her thumb throughout the sport. She misses the following seven contests, 4 of that are towards ranked opponents.

Nov. 20, 2022: Minutes earlier than the Huskies are set to tackle then-No. 10 NC State, longtime affiliate head coach Chris Dailey faints on-court upon the conclusion of the nationwide anthem. After a quick delay, the sport proceeds, and the Huskies trounce the Wolfpack 91-69. Dailey undergoes an evaluation at UConn Health and is launched that very same afternoon.

Nov. 25-27, 2022: Despite being with out Juhász, the Huskies make assertion wins over Duke (28 factors) and Caitlin Clark’s then-No. 9 Iowa (seven factors) on the Phil Knight Legacy event in Portland, Oregon. UConn already has three wins over top-10 groups.

Dec. 4, 2022: After averaging 24.0 factors per sport on 54.4% taking pictures (43.5% on 3-pointers) by means of her first six video games of the season — and incomes buzz as a nationwide participant of the yr candidate — sophomore Azzi Fudd injures her proper knee within the first quarter of UConn’s street matchup at Notre Dame. The Huskies falter with out her within the second half, dropping 74-60 for his or her first defeat of the season. Fudd, who had a MCL and ACL tear in the identical knee in highschool, is later dominated out for 3-6 weeks.

Dec. 8, 2022: In the following sport, Mühl suffers a concussion early within the second half towards Princeton, whereas graduate scholar Lou Lopez-Sénéchal sits the sport’s closing 4 minutes after tweaking her foot. UConn is left with six out there gamers and wards off a Tigers rally. Forced to play large minutes as the one out there level guard, Bettencourt goes 3-for-4 from the free throw line within the closing 25 seconds, making certain UConn a 69-64 win regardless of 27 turnovers.

Unbeknownst to the general public on the time, Geno Auriemma’s mom dies that evening.

“We’ve been broken so many times this year that we’re unbreakable now.”

UConn junior guard Nika Mühl

Dec. 11, 2022: With Mühl sidelined, the Huskies have simply seven gamers out there in College Park. They hold the rating principally inside two possessions within the fourth quarter, however their 22 turnovers and lack of scoring choices catch as much as them in a 85-78 loss to then-No. 20 Maryland. It’s longtime Terps coach Brenda Frese’s first profession victory over UConn.

Dec. 18 and 21, 2022: Juhász returns from her thumb harm, however shortly earlier than UConn takes on Florida State at Mohegan Sun, the varsity pronounces Auriemma will miss the sport and Dailey will coach in his stead. Dailey later attributes Auriemma’s absence to flu-like signs and dehydration. Auriemma additionally sits out the following sport versus Seton Hall, returning to the crew after Christmas.

Dec. 28, 2022: The Huskies are as soon as once more short-handed as senior Aubrey Griffin contracts COVID-19 throughout the holidays and sophomore Amari DeBerry is unable to rejoin the crew from her hometown of Buffalo as a extreme snowstorm cancels flights. Still, UConn bests then-No. 21 Creighton 72-47 with solely seven out there gamers. While DeBerry is again for the following sport, Griffin stays out for yet another.

Jan. 2, 2023: Ducharme suffers a concussion in follow, in the end lacking 13 video games and 6 weeks.

Jan. 3 and 5, 2023: Auriemma misses two extra video games, saying in a press release he feels “under the weather” and run down, needing extra time to deal with his well being. Dailey takes over for an additional pair of video games and improves to 17-0 in her profession when filling in for Auriemma.

Jan. 6, 2023: The Big East postpones UConn’s sport versus DePaul as a result of the Huskies do not have the conference-required seven scholarship gamers out there to play. In their earlier sport towards Xavier, Patterson suffered a concussion and Edwards damage her ankle when she ran right into a row of chairs going after a free ball, which sidelined her for the second half of the sport. Edwards is sweet to go for his or her subsequent sport, whereas Patterson misses the following 4.

Jan. 11, 2023: The Huskies return to motion — with Auriemma and Fudd again. Fudd scores 14 factors off the bench in her return, a 82-52 win over St. John’s.

Jan. 15, 2023: In her second sport again after her preliminary harm, Fudd reinjures her knee within the first half towards Georgetown. She’s deemed out indefinitely, although Auriemma later signifies she plans on returning in some unspecified time in the future this season.



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End of January: Short-handed UConn surpasses expectations with a 45-point win over Seton Hall, a 43-point thrashing towards DePaul and a convincing 17-point victory towards Tennessee in Knoxville. Signs of fatigue begin to present, nonetheless, once they barely shut out No. 21 Villanova 63-58 at residence.

Feb. 5, 2023: The Huskies narrowly fall to No. 1 South Carolina 81-77 in Hartford in a rematch of the 2022 nationwide title sport, which the Gamecocks additionally gained. Auriemma says he feels higher about his crew postgame than he did going into it.

Feb. 8, 2023: With accidents, an overreliance on starters and fatigue catching up with them, UConn drops back-to-back video games for the primary time since March 1993 with a 59-52 street loss to Marquette. Auriemma later calls it their low level of the season.

Feb. 15, 2022: Ducharme makes her return, and her big fourth quarter propels UConn over Creighton. She later tells reporters that whereas she has been cleared to play, she’s nonetheless coping with residual signs from her concussion that require administration. She’s usually seen icing her head on the Huskies’ bench.

Feb. 21, 2022: Another historic loss, as UConn falls to St. John’s 69-64 in Hartford. The defeat marks the primary time because the 2003-04 marketing campaign the Huskies dropped a number of convention video games to unranked groups in a single season.

Feb. 27, 2022: The Huskies clinch the Big East regular-season title with a 60-51 win over Xavier, which went winless in convention play. Juhász misses the matchup after spraining her ankle the sport prior. For many of the previous month, the Huskies stall offensively, produce a string of uncharacteristic 60-point outings and turnover-heavy performances and barely eke out wins over opponents they sometimes put away handily. From their Jan. 29 win over Villanova by means of the win over Xavier, all of their video games are determined by 10 or fewer factors.

Auriemma vents to media postgame that the crew should “stop blaming fatigue” as an excuse and argues they’re being “selfish.”

March 4-6, 2023: It’s the Big East event. Juhász is sweet to play and Fudd is lastly again within the lineup. And for the primary time because the Nov. 14 sport towards Texas, the Huskies have all 10 gamers out there. They do not want Fudd a lot; Most Outstanding Player Edwards powers UConn to the event crown. With convincing wins over Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova, the Huskies’ February struggles seem gone.

They have a quick scare after Ducharme takes one other arduous hit to the top within the first half of the quarterfinal. She misses the rest of that sport however performs within the subsequent two. Griffin experiences again spasms throughout the closing and misses the second half of the championship. Auriemma tells reporters this week she hasn’t practiced a lot because the event.