UConn women’s basketball continues what head coach Geno Auriemma has called the “toughest stretch of the season” on Monday night when it faces DePaul at Gampel Pavilion.
This will be the No. 5 Huskies’ second game amid a stretch of five games in 11 days. They defeated Butler 79-39 on Saturday, take on the Blue Demons (11-9, 4-5 Big East) Monday, then travel to face Tennessee on Thursday, play Villanova at the XL Center on Jan. 29, followed by a trip to Providence on Feb. 1. And though not part of this condensed stretch, a few days after that they’ll face No. 1 South Carolina on Feb. 5.
This DePaul game was originally scheduled for Jan. 8, but was postponed because UConn only had six available players due to injuries, falling under the Big East minimum requirement of seven players. The Huskies (17-2, 10-0 Big East) are still shorthanded, but they enter the matchup on a 10-game winning streak.
“You don’t have a script when you play DePaul,” Auriemma said. “They come in and you just keep your eyes open because you have no idea what the hell’s gonna happen. They could try to play a 125-120 game or it could be 55 to 50. You got to be ready for anything when you play those guys.”
Here are three things to know for the matchup.
Key matchup: Aneesah Morrow vs Aaliyah Edwards
The Blue Demons are led by 2021-22 National Freshman of the Year Aneesah Morrow. The 6-foot-1 forward is averaging 25.2 points and 11.9 rebounds per game in her sophomore season, both of which rank top-five in the country. She also third in the nation with 16 double doubles in 20 games. And beyond her work pointing up points and grabbing boards, Morrow has produced 2.6 steals and 1.8 assists per game.
Morrow went off in both meetings with UConn last season. She notched 30 points and 14 rebounds in the first as the Huskies’ escaped with a 80-78 win. She then recorded 20 points and 16 rebounds in the second, a 84-60 win for UConn.
“She could get 50 tomorrow. And if we guard the hell out of her, maybe we can hold her to 35,” Auriemma said. “She’s one of those kids in the country that is just really, really, really hard to defend. She’s skilled, she plays hard, she’s competitive.”
The matchup between Morrow and Aaliyah Edwards will be a key one to watch on Monday night. Edwards has taken a huge leap in her junior season, averaging 16.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while shooting 62% from the field.
“(Aaliyah) and Dorka got a big test tomorrow,” Auriemma said. “And then later this week, too at Tennessee. If you think about what’s an All-American type player, right, it’s somebody that you can count on on your team to get you a bucket when you need it, get a rebound when you need it, get a steal when you have to have one, get a block shot. And she plays so hard and she’s so consistent that she’s had an All-American type season, and we’re probably going to need her more than ever these next 11, 12 days.”
The latest on the injury front
UConn was down to seven available players for the second game in a row in its win over Butler on Saturday.
Azzi Fudd (right knee) and Caroline Ducharme (concussion) remain out for the Huskies for Monday’s matchup, as of course do Paige Bueckers (ACL tear) and Ice Brady (patella tear) with season-ending injuries. However, the status of Ayanna Patterson, who has missed the last four games since suffering a concussion at Xavier on Jan. 5, is more up in the air.
Patterson was a no-contact participant in practice for the Huskies over the past week and has participated in pregame warmups for the two games as part of her recovery process. She was a game-time decision against Butler, but ultimately didn’t play. Auriemma indicated that Patterson would be upgraded from no contact to contact on Sunday, which is a positive sign moving forward.
Getting Patterson back, whether that be for Monday’s game or later in the week, would bump UConn up to eight players and give them an extra option to sub into the frontcourt off the bench. The freshman forward was averaging 3.2 points and 2.7 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game on the season before suffering the concussion.
There are injuries on DePaul’s side of the matchup as well. The Blue Demons were without starting forward Jorie Allen and guard Keke Rimmer against St. John’s on Saturday, while graduate transfer guard Jade Edwards tore her ACL and meniscus in her left knee in November.
High praise for Lou Lopez Sénéchal
Along with Edwards, Lou Lopez Sénéchal has been a stabilizing force for the Huskies all season.
The graduate has scored in double figures in every single game for UConn since transferring from Fairfield last spring. She’s averaging 16.7 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists on the season while shooting an astonishing 49% from 3-point range.
Lopez Sénéchal was crucial to the Huskies’ win over Butler last time out. They fell behind early and trailed 13-10 at the end of the first quarter. Then Lopez Sénéchal sparked a huge run and scored 12 of UConn’s 26 points in the second to put the home team firmly in control. She finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists
“I don’t know where we’d be without Lou,” Auriemma said. “She might be our MVP.”
What else to know for the game.
Site: Gampel Pavilion
Time: 7 p.m.
Series: UConn, 21-1
Last meeting: No. 8 UConn 84, DePaul 60 at Gampel Pavilion
TV: SNY; Allen Bestwick (play-by-play), Meghan Culmo (analyst), Maria Marino (sideline)
Streaming: SNY app
Radio: UConn Sports Network on 97.9 ESPN