UConn women make statement in 81-52 win over Marquette, advance to Big East Tournament title game

UNCASVILLE — Less than a month ago, the UConn women’s basketball team dropped its first conference game of the season. The Huskies appeared to have run out of gas, the fatigue of playing all year with a shorthanded roster finally caught up to them in a seven-point road loss to Marquette.

That defeat was nothing but a distant memory on Sunday. The top-seeded Huskies — at long last healthy with 10 players available — looked like a completely different team as they made a statement with a dominant 81-52 victory over the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles in the Big East Tournament semifinals at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The 81 points marked UConn’s highest total since Jan. 26. With the victory, the Huskies advanced to their 19th consecutive conference tournament championship game.

Aaliyah Edwards led UConn with a double-double of 20 points and 12 rebounds. Dorka Juhasz (14 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Nika Muhl (11 points, 10 assists) both added double-doubles as well. Lou Lopez Senechal scored 14 points while Aubrey Griffin recorded 11 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.

UConn dominated inside as it outscored Marquette 48-8 in the paint.

The Huskies had 10 players available for the second game in a row, but just the third time this season. Caroline Ducharme, who has dealt with concussions over the past two seasons, had an injury scare when she went down clutching her head in the Huskies’ 69-39 quarterfinal win over No. 9 seed Georgetown on Saturday. She missed part of the second quarter and the entire second half of that matchup, but returned to the lineup to play 13 minutes against the Golden Eagles.

Azzi Fudd played 20 minutes in her second game back from a right knee injury, finishing with four points.

Carrying over its dominant performance from the quarterfinals, UConn opened the afternoon on a 9-2 run to force an early Marquette timeout a little over three minutes into the game.

Lopez Senechal scored the first five points of the game for the Huskies, who led 20-12 at the end of the first quarter. She made another big shot early in the second quarter, hitting a triple off an assist from Muhl to give UConn a 25-12 lead — its largest of the game to that point — with 8:37 left.

But then the Huskies’ offense went cold. They went scoreless for a little over four minutes, allowing the Golden Eagles to go on a 8-0 run and trim the lead to five. UConn head coach Geno Auriemma called a timeout at that point, with 4:36 left in the second.

Juhasz scored a layup on an inbounds play out of the timeout to break the drought. Aubrey Griffin then came up with her third steal of the afternoon, which led to a layup from Edwards. Marquette star Chloe Marotta committed her third foul of the game on Lopez Senechal shortly after, forcing her to go the bench as the UConn wing made both shots at the charity stripe to give the Huskies a 31-20 lead.

Those buckets were part of a 12-2 run for UConn entering the halftime break, at which point it held a 37-22 lead.

The Huskies increased that lead to 19 points just a little over a minute into the second half.

Lopez Senechal hit a midrange jumper that sparked a 6-0 run in just 37 seconds. Juhasz grabbed her own miss and put it back up for the score, followed by a steal and score from Muhl that sent the Mohegan Sun crowd into a frenzy. With UConn up 43-24, Marquette called timeout.

King made a jumper to break the run, but the Huskies weren’t slowing down anytime soon. Griffin knocked down a 3-pointer to give them their first 20-point lead of the afternoon. She did a little bit of everything for UConn throughout the game, including grabbing an offensive rebound and assisting a driving layup for Lopez Senechal less than a minute later. Griffin made a layup shortly after that as well to extend the advantage to 54-29 with 6:19 left in the third.

Fudd scored a layup for her first bucket of the game with 4:02 left. And by the end of the third quarter, UConn held a 61-36 lead.

The Huskies had already made quite the statement after only scoring 61 and 52 points total in each of their regular season games against the Golden Eagles, and they easily casted to victory from there.

The Huskies will face either 2-seed Villanova or 3-seed Creighton in the Big East Tournament title game on Monday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on FS1.