Azzi Fudd inching closer to returning for UConn women. What to know for the Huskies quarterfinal matchup against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament
STORRS — Health, injuries and potential returns of key players are once again the primary storylines swirling around UConn women’s basketball as postseason play approaches, starting with the Big East Tournament quarterfinals against No. 9 seed Georgetown (14-16, 6-14 Big East) on Saturday.
The top-seeded Huskies (26-5, 18-2 Big East) appear to be getting closer and closer to having star guard Azzi Fudd return from a right knee injury which has kept her out the last 14 games. She also missed eight games earlier in the season with a right knee injury, after averaging 17.9 points on 43.4% shooting from 3-point range to open her sophomore year.
“Every day there’s more that she’s capable of doing and there’s more that she wants to do and there’s more situations that she puts herself in in practice to keep testing herself,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said before practice Friday. “I asked her about a month ago, I said, ‘What’s your plans?’ And she said, ‘I’m working out every day and planning to come back.’
“So when is she going to feel comfortable coming back? I mean, she practiced (Thursday), not the whole practice, didn’t do everything, but she started looking like her old self. That’s one day, so we’ll see what happens (Friday), how long she can go and whether or not she looks like she’s ready to play. It’s kind of like the situation Paige (Bueckers) was in last year. You want to give it a shot, you want to dive in, but the water is cold so you put your foot in there a little bit. You’re better off diving in, right? It’s never a good thing to walk in slowly.”
Fudd took part in the portion of practice open to media on Friday, running through drills with a gray brace on her right knee. She has participated in warmups prior to each of the last two games.
Dorka Juhasz, who missed the last game of the regular season with a right ankle sprain, was a partial participant, taking part in the majority of drills but on a stationary exercise bike for others.
“She went through half our workout (Thursday) and I think she’s gonna do a little more today,” Auriemma said of Juhasz beforehand. “She’s had four or five days of rehab, so I’m planning on that she’s going to be good to go. But three games in three days, who knows? Who knows?”
Lou Lopez Senechal also wasn’t a full participant in practice and spent a decent amount of time on the exercise bike. She has been limited in practice in recent weeks due to soreness and the wear and tear of being the main target of opposing defenses.
“Mentally I think I’m really ready and I think that’s going to help me physically to kind of forget sometimes the soreness and sometimes how tired I am,” Lopez Senechal said. “It’s just the most exciting time of the year. I’m just trying to forget the physical part and just get there and have the right mindset coming into the games.”
Also of note, Ayanna Patterson did not participate in practice, instead sitting off to the side wearing a face mask. Auriemma said that she has been dealing with a stomach bug.
Even with the potential returns of Fudd and Juhasz, the Huskies have a tough path ahead to secure their 10th consecutive conference tournament title, third straight in the Big East. They defeated the Hoyas in each of their regular-season matchups, but struggled in both. And if they win, the Huskies will have to face either Marquette or St. John’s — both of whom beat them in the regular season — before a potential title game against Villanova or Creighton.
“Generally, no matter what you do, that first game in the Big East Tournament is always really lousy,” Auriemma said. “They’ve played a game, they feel pretty good, they’re gonna get up (Saturday) and be ready to play. And you haven’t played in a while, now you’re going out there and you’re supposed to win and the score is 10-8 at the five-minute mark and everybody’s (freaking out). So you gotta deal with all that, and that’s 38 years worth of that. You know it’s coming and you just prepare yourself for it.”
What else to know
Site: Mohegan Sun Arena
Time: 12 p.m.
Series: UConn, 51-6
Last meeting: No. 4 UConn 67, Georgetown 59 in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 11, 2023
TV: FS1; John Fanta, Kim Adams and Meghan Caffrey
Streaming: Fox Sports App
Radio: UConn Sports Network on 97.9 ESPN