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UConn women’s basketball secures AAC regular season crown in victory over UCF, 66-53

The Huskies grind out a physical win on senior day to clinch the AAC regular season title.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball won its seventh and final AAC regular season championship by defeating the UCF Knights, 66-53. It is the Huskies’ 26th regular season conference championship all-time as UConn improves to 133-0 in AAC play.

Geno Auriemma started all five seniors for senior day, giving both Evelyn Adebayo and Batouly Camara their first career starts for UConn while Molly Bent made her first start in Gampel Pavilion. The Huskies opened the scoring thanks to a strong offensive rebound by Camara followed by a nice dish to Kyla Irwin for a layup.

The group held their own against UCF’s starting five, keeping the Knights scoreless for over two minutes. At the 7:29 mark, Auriemma put his typical starters, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Anna Makurat, Megan Walker and Christyn Williams into the game with only Crystal Dangerfield remaining from the day’s starting lineup.

UConn’s defense continued to shut down UCF, holding the Knights to just a single basket and four points total through the first quarter. The Huskies closed the period on a 12-1 run which put them up by 12 after 10 minutes.

The second quarter was much more of a slog. Nelson-Ododa and Walker carried UConn’s offense with 12 of the team’s 14 points while the visitors’ offense finally woke up and got UCF back in the game somewhat, keeping the Huskies’ lead to just 10 points going into the half. The Huskies also struggled to hold onto the ball, turning it over 11 times.

Anna Makurat owned the third quarter, hitting an early three on her way to 11 points in the period. Though UCF got the lead down to single-digits at one point, the Huskies caught fire from three and hit five of their next shots from beyond the arc.

With UConn holding a comfortable but not commanding lead entering the fourth, UCF started to show its frustration. After Nelson-Ododa appeared to get hit in the face down low, Masseny Kaba was whistled for an intentional foul. Shortly after, Dangerfield was fouled hard on a layup by Diamond Battles, resulting in yet another intentional foul.

However, after Dangerfield sank the two ensuing free throws, the Knights responded with an 8-0 run to get back within 10 with just under four minutes to play. The Huskies were reeling, but Makurat stepped up. She hit a big three-point play to push the lead back to 13 and after a UCF basket on the other end, the freshman responded with a three-pointer to put UConn ahead 64-50.

That bucket squashed any remaining hopes for a comeback as the Huskies came away with the win.

Megan Walker recorded her ninth double-double of the season with a 20-point, 10-rebound performance while also leading the team with six assists. Makurat finished with 17 points — all of which came in the second half — while Dangerfield dropped 14 points in her final regular season game at Gampel Pavilion.

Nelson-Ododa left the game after getting hit in the face and went into the locker room, though she eventually re-emerged with a towel pressed to her nose. While she didn’t return, Auriemma said after the game that the injury doesn’t appear to be serious but the team will know better tomorrow after she undergoes some tests.

Next, UConn hits the road for a pair of games, beginning with a trip to Cincinnati on Wednesday night in a game that will be televised on ESPN3 and SNY.