UConn is beginning to appear like UConn once more

Do not look now, however UConn might make a Remaining 4 run within the NCAA ladies’s basketball match.

Go forward and roll your eyes as a result of Geno Auriemma’s program has gained a report 11 nationwide championships and gone to an unprecedented 14 consecutive Remaining Fours, however there was some extent within the season the place the Huskies regarded weak.

On Saturday, No. 2 UConn regarded like itself once more, because the Huskies rolled over No. 15 Vermont, 95-52, on their residence flooring. Whereas the consequence itself wasn’t stunning, there was an awesome feeling of “UConn is back” after combating an inordinate quantity of stress and adversity this season.

First, there have been the accidents. A number of 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. A type of video games was on Feb. 5 when Auriemma had seven gamers to tackle No. 1 South Carolina. UConn almost gained that 2022 nationwide championship rematch, which was performed in Hartford, Conn., however got here up brief 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.”

Issues began falling again into place as some gamers returned from their accidents. Maybe none was extra notable than Fudd, who got here again in time to assist lead her crew to the Massive East match title. The previous No. 1 total recruit within the class of 2021 missed 14 video games this season due to that pesky knee. When she first damage 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. Although she’s nonetheless getting again right into a groove on the court docket, her presence alone provides UConn a bonus.

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

Talking 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 good 8-of-8 capturing; Vermont’s complete crew 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 crew, UConn shot 61.9% from the sphere whereas holding Vermont to 33.3%. The Huskies additionally held a big edge in assists (27-13), factors within the paint (54-10) second probability factors (15-5), and rebounds (43-19).

Level right here, UConn had some massive wins at first of the season towards Texas, NC State and Iowa, all of whom have been ranked within the high 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 appear like the almighty UConn groups we’re used to seeing yearly. And so it looks like a deep tourney run is imminent.

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 crew a three-point lead, Teonni Key fouled St. John’s Danielle Patterson’s three-point try. Fortunately 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 probably the most thrilling and closest match 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 tug off the win. The comeback was really tied for fifth-largest in NCAA Event historical past.

Laken Litman covers school soccer, school basketball and soccer for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand wrote for Sports activities Illustrated, USA At present and The Indianapolis Star. She is the creator of “Strong Like a Woman,” printed in spring 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Observe her on Twitter @LakenLitman.

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