UConn women’s basketball edges out Providence

UConn women’s basketball edges out Providence

PROVIDENCE, RI — It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy, but UConn’s women’s basketball team completed their final tune-up before their toughest game of the regular season, edging out a 64-54 win over Providence Wednesday night at Alumni Entrance.

Along with earning their 14th straight win, the No. 5-ranked Huskies (21-2, 13-0 Big East) can also celebrate a likely positive update in Azzi Fudd’s recovery.

While the second-year star guard remains unavailable, she walked without crutches on the sidelines during Wednesday’s game. Fudd, who re-injured her right knee Jan. 15, has been on crutches for the past two-and-a-half weeks recovering. The guard missed eight games earlier this season after initially injuring his knee on Dec. 4 and missed six more last month after returning and playing a game and a half.

With UConn’s biggest test of the regular season against No. 1 South Carolina just four days away, UConn coach Geno Auriemma made sure his starters got enough rest Wednesday against Providence (13- 11, 4-9).

After using just one sub for a total of five and a half minutes on Sunday against Villanova, the eight available Huskies saw time on the field in the first half against the Friars.

Power forward Aaliyah Edwards, who will have the biggest defensive task on Sunday against South Carolina star forward Aliyah Boston, played nine minutes in the first quarter before sitting out the entire second quarter to rest. Edwards averages 32.8 minutes per game. On Wednesday, she finished with four points, four rebounds in 26 minutes.

Junior Nika Muhl carried the Huskies to Wednesday’s victory. The point guard was the first double-digit player (she scored her 11th point at 3:03 in the second quarter) and made her first five shots. At halftime, she led all players with 11 points and seven assists.

Muhl finished with 14 points and nine assists. After entering Wednesday’s game with 184 assists in UConn’s first 22 games of the year, the Croatian broke into the program’s all-time top 10 and is now No. 8.

UConn frontcourt backups Ayanna Patterson and Amari DeBerry teamed with Dorka Juhasz — who recorded her eighth double-double of the year with 19 points and 17 rebounds — to beat the Friars 22-8 in the paint after the second quarter without Edwards.

The Brothers made their only comeback move in the third quarter. With a 9-0 run in less than two minutes, Providence had cut UConn’s lead from 15 to six.

Auriemma called timeout at 1:23 into the third after UConn started the quarter 3 of 9 from the floor. The coach put his starters back on the ground as they finished the quarter with 5 turnovers and just four total field goals.

Muhl sparked the Huskies’ resurgence by opening the fourth with a 3-pointer. Juhasz followed with a layup and a one-and-one while Providence called a timeout a minute into the quarter. A steal and score from Lou Lopez Senechal about a minute later gave UConn a 19-point lead.

However, the Huskies began to falter. At 4:32 into the fourth, they suffered a shot clock violation for their 19th turnover of the game. Providence extended its streak to 11-2 and came close to eight as UConn went scoreless for more than three and a half minutes.

A Juhasz layup at 2:33 cut UConn’s lead to 10 as the Huskies finished the rest of the game.

The Huskies return to Connecticut and host defending national champion South Carolina on Sunday (noon/FOX) in their final non-conference game of the season. Sunday’s game will be a rematch of the 2022 National Championship game in which the Gamecocks won their second title and UConn suffered their first-ever loss in the title game.

[email protected] @maggie_vanoni

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