UConn women’s basketball: Nika Muhl likely out for Elite Eight game against Baylor; Shea Ralph will not return to the NCAA Tournament bubble

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Alexa Philippou, Hartford Courant
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The UConn women were going to have their hands full in Monday’s Elite Eight matchup against Baylor as it was, and now they will likely be down one of their crucial pieces for it.

Coach Geno Auriemma said Sunday that starting freshman guard Nika Muhl is unlikely to take the floor as the Huskies battle it out for a 13th consecutive Final Four appearance.

“There’s no change in her status. I don’t anticipate her playing [Monday],” Auriemma told reporters.

Auriemma did not rule out Muhl for the rest of the tournament, should UConn advance. The national semifinal games are April 4, and the national championship is April 6.

“That’s a week away, so a lot can change in a week,” Auriemma said. “It’s hard to say right now how much progress she can make in a week.”

Monday would mark the third straight game missed by Muhl after spraining her right ankle in the second quarter of UConn’s NCAA Tournament opener March 21 against High Point. Muhl has been a spark for the Huskies since being inserted into the starting lineup in early February, averaging 5.0 points, 2.8 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Freshman Aaliyah Edwards has started in Muhl’s absence and has shined in that role, scoring at least 17 points in each game and missing only four shots so far in San Antonio.

Auriemma also disclosed that assistant coach Shea Ralph will not return to the NCAA Tournament bubble after she departed it March 17 due to a family member’s COVID-19 diagnosis. He attributed that to “NCAA policy.”

That’s left the majority of coaching duties to Auriemma, associate head coach Chris Dailey and assistant coach Jamelle Elliott. Dailey, Elliott and video coordinator Ben Kantor ran things prior to Auriemma’s arrival to the bubble as he self-isolated with COVID-19.

“There’s really not much you can do [from afar] other than stay connected and stay in touch,” Auriemma said. “There’s really not a whole lot.”

Alexa Philippou can be reached at aphilippou@courant.com.