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Big East Quarterfinals: UConn women’s basketball blows past St. John’s, 77-41

The Huskies took advantage of their size advantage and dominated in the paint.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 06 Big East Women’s Basketball Tournament - St Johns v UConn Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

UConn women’s basketball opened the postseason with a 77-41 with over the St. John’s Red Storm to advance to the semifinals of the Big East Tournament.

Nika Muhl left the game with an injury and did not return after she appeared to turn her ankle on a St. John’s player’s foot. She needed to be helped off the floor and didn’t put any weight on her left leg. Later, Muhl returned to the bench on crutches.

“We’ll probably know more a little bit later but right now it’s an ankle sprain,” head coach Geno Auriemma said about Muhl’s injury postgame. “How extensive, we don’t know. We’ll know soon. Nika is a pretty tough kid, as tough as they come...Nika is going to give it every opportunity overnight and then she’s going to play. And if she doesn’t play it’s because it’s serious.”

The Huskies’ defense led the way, holding St. John’s to 15-54 shooting and 4-18 from three. UConn also forced 21 turnovers which turned into 32 points the other way.

While the Huskies didn’t have one of their best shooting performances of the season (13 percent from three, 45 percent overall), they dominated inside. UConn out-scored the Red Storm 46-10 in the paint and owned the rebounding battle, 43-30.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa earned a double-double in the first half with 10 points and 11 rebounds — which ended up as her final line as well — while Aaliyah Edwards had nine points and five rebounds.

Paige Bueckers led the team with 17 points and added four rebounds and three assists. Christyn Williams chipped in 14 points while Evina Westbrook contributed nine.

Anna Makurat returned after missing the previous 12 games with a stress fracture. She grabbed three rebounds but did not score in 11 minutes of action.

UConn started slow and made just one of its first five shots to open the game despite a concerted effort to get the ball inside. The Huskies’ first eight shots were all layups and their first attempt outside the paint didn’t come until the 4:14 mark of the first quarter.

Despite the sluggish offensive start, UConn’s defense made life difficult for the Red Storm, who only made three baskets in the first 10 minutes. At one point, St. John’s failed to score for six minutes, which allowed the Huskies to build an 18-point lead early in the second quarter.

UConn continued to do most of its damage inside with 26 of its 38 first half points coming in the paint and held a 25-14 rebounding edge. Nelson-Ododa reached a double-double with more than a minute left before halftime as well.

UConn opened the second half with an 11-0 run out of the locker room to push its lead past 30 points. St. John’s next threatened a comeback as the Huskies came away with a 36-point victory.

Next, UConn will face No. 5 Villanova in the semifinals on Sunday at 3 p.m. on FS1.