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Geno Auriemma discusses UConn’s COVID problems, provides updates on injured players

The details of the Huskies’ COVID issues are finally coming to light.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Geno Auriemma is “not too optimistic” UConn women’s basketball game at Villanova on Friday will happen due to the COVID-19 problems within the Huskies’ program, the coach said during his radio show on 97.9 ESPN.

“If someone comes off the (COVID) protocols, they still need five days of practice before they’re going to be able to play,” Auriemma said. “So it doesn’t give you much time between today and Friday. So you cross your fingers but I’m not too optimistic about (playing Villanova).”

UConn has not played since returning from the Christmas break. The Huskies’ first scheduled game back — vs. Marquette on Dec. 29 — was canceled due to COVID problems in the Golden Eagles’ program but two more — at DePaul on Dec. 31 and at Georgetown on Dec. 5 — were canceled when the virus hit UConn’s program.

Auriemma said one player tested positive while they were still home for the holidays and didn’t return to campus with the rest of the team on Dec. 26. A handful of others — the coach didn’t specify how many — had symptoms when they arrived and “a couple” tested positive right away followed by “a couple more” a few days later.

The Big East requires teams to have at least seven players and one coach available for each game. With Paige Bueckers (knee), Azzi Fudd (foot), Aubrey Griffin (back) and Nika Mühl (foot) all out due to injury, just two positive tests would send UConn below the threshold.

In addition to the five days of practice time that the coach believes players need before playing, UConn, following a recommendation from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, still mandates a 10-day isolation for anyone who tests positive despite the CDC reducing the recommended isolation time to five days. So with a 10-day isolation plus five days of practice, a positive test will likely prevent a player from playing for at least 15 days.

Even without the COVID problems, Fudd, Griffin and Mühl wouldn’t have played in any of the team’s three canceled games.

“You wouldn’t have had those three no matter what. They’re not ready to go,” he said. “We were hoping that right after the holidays, we would have a better idea. Nika was out on the floor for a little bit doing some small things today and hopefully a little more as each day goes on.”

Auriemma also provided a brief update on Bueckers’ recovery.

“For now it’s strength, trying to build some strength in that leg, trying to keep the range of motion,” he said. “Little by little, try to add a little more each day, each week. But January will go by pretty fast and before you know it, she’ll be itching to get back out on the court.”