Azzi Fudd makes return as UConn women dominate Georgetown 69-39 in Big East Tournament quarterfinals

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UNCASVILLE — After a February filled with close games and multiple losses, the UConn women’s basketball team opened the most important month of the year with a dominant victory in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament.

With 10 players available for the just the second time all year, and first since Nov. 14, thanks to the long-awaited return of Azzi Fudd, the top-seeded Huskies knocked off No. 9 seed Georgetown, 69-39, at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.

UConn looked the best it had in a long time as it rolled to its first double-digit victory since Jan. 26.

The Huskies were led by their defense as they held the Hoyas to 13 of 64 (20.3%) shooting from the field and 3 of 27 (11.1%) shooting from 3-point range. They had a 57-38 rebounding edge and outscored their opponent 30-10 in the paint.

Fudd made her return after missing the last 14 games with a right knee injury, suffered on Jan. 15 against the Hoyas. That was just her second game back after missing eight with a right knee injury earlier this season. Despite it being just her 10th time on the floor this year Fudd finished with 10 points, four assists and two rebounds in 17 minutes.

Aaliyah Edwards had a 19-point, 13-rebound double-double, plus a career-high four blocks and two steals, to lead the way for UConn. Dorka Juhasz also added a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, as well as three assists. Lou Lopez Senechal finished with 14 points. Nika Muhl added seven points, seven rebounds and five assists, while Aubrey Griffin had six points and 11 rebounds.

In addition to Fudd, Juhasz was back in action after missing the last game of the regular season with ankle sprain. But as if the Huskies finally having 10 players available was too good to be true, Caroline Ducharme went down with an injury.

Ducharme lay on the ground clutching her head after getting hit while going for a rebound with 3:10 left in the second quarter. She was helped up teammates, the team trainer and associate head coach Chris Dailey before heading back to the locker room. She returned to the bench in the third quarter wearing an all-gray sweatsuit with earplugs in her ears and an ice pack in hand.

Fudd checked into the game for the first time following a media timeout with 4:15 left in the first quarter and was met by loud cheers from the crowd. The Huskies led 8-6 at that point and wouldn’t allow the Hoyas much more offense than that the rest of the way.

With under two minutes left in the first, Fudd grabbed an offensive rebound and found Juhasz for an and-one layup. The sophomore guard then made two shots at the free-throw line for her first points back, putting UConn up 15-8 with 1:01 left.

The Huskies led 17-8 at the end of the first quarter — their biggest lead in the opening period of play since Feb. 5 against No. 1 South Carolina. It was their first time holding an opponent under 10 points in the first quarter since Jan. 17 against Seton Hall as the Hoyas shot 4 of 23 (17.4%) from the field.

Defense continued to lead the way for UConn in the second quarter. The Huskies didn’t allow Georgetown to score from the field until Kelsey Ransom made a pull-up jumper with 1:46 left. They led 29-12 at that point.

Fudd scored her first bucket back on a layup shortly after. Then Edwards came up with a steal, which led to UConn’s first 3-pointer of the afternoon from Lopez Senechal off an assist by Fudd.

UConn entered the halftime break with a 35-12 lead. The Huskies held Georgetown to the fewest points of any opponent in a first half all season on 5 of 26 (13.9%) shooting from the field and 0 of 14 (0%) shooting from deep.

Fudd got her first 3-pointer to fall off an assist from Aubrey Griffin with 4:53 left in the third quarter to the delight of the UConn-dominant crowd. Fans in the stands roared even louder around a minute and a half later as Fudd drained her second triple on a fast break. That bucket put the Huskies up 33 points, 56-23, with 3:12 left in the third.

The Huskies led 61-31 entering the final frame and coasted to victory from there, despite not scoring in the first half of the fourth with mostly bench players in the game.

UConn will face either 4-seed St. John’s or 5-seed Marquette in the semifinals Sunday as they chase their 27th conference championship in program history. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. on FS1.