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UConn women’s basketball grinds out win over Creighton, 63-55

Caroline Ducharme continued her ascent as the Huskies earned a sloppy victory in their first game of 2022.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

In its first game in 21 days, UConn women’s basketball pulled away late from the Creighton Bluejays to earn a 63-55 victory at Gampel Pavilion.

Caroline Ducharme continued to impress, finishing with a game-high 17 points to go with five rebounds, three blocks, three assists and two steals.

Christyn Williams and Aaliyah Edwards both looked like their usual selves after struggling earlier this season. Williams played aggressive and attacked the basket en route to a 13-point day while Edwards used her strength and physicality to pick up 12 points and three rebounds. Meanwhile, Olivia Nelson-Ododa had seven points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Nika Mühl returned after missing the last three games with a foot injury and immediately looked like her old self. It took her just 30 seconds to pick up her first foul and added a second not long after. Though Geno Auriemma said pregame Mühl would be limited to 15 minutes, Mühl had two points, three assists, two rebounds and four fouls in 17 minutes

Creighton out-rebounded UConn 34-33 and held a 34-28 scoring advantage in the paint. The Huskies struggled with turnovers throughout the game, coughing the ball up 16 times — eight of which were traveling violations. Evina Westbrook had a particularly rough day with six turnovers, four rebounds, three assists and just two points.

With 4:30 left in the third quarter, Creighton cut UConn’s lead to five points with a 3-pointer. But from there, the Huskies allowed just one basket over the next six minutes and the pushed the gap to 17 points. Though the Bluejays made a comeback push late and got back within single-digits, UConn ultimately held on.

Creighton held a pair of two-point leads in the opening minutes but a quick 5-0 spurt courtesy of a three from Williams and back-door cut from Ducharme gave UConn the lead for good. However, the Huskies struggled to pull away. They built the advantage to as many as 10 points in the second quarter but the visitors fought back and got the deficit down to four points less than three minutes before halftime.

Ducharme came alive in the latter half of the period and scored seven of UConn’s final 10 points before the half — including a tough layup followed by a rejection on the other end to close out the first 20 minutes. The Huskies went into the locker room with a 36-29 lead.

UConn scored six of the first eight points of the second half to take an 11-point lead — its largest of the day to that point — before its defense gave it right back. Creighton went on a 6-0 run, all of which came on wide-open layups in the paint. That cut the Huskies’ advantage down to five points and prompted Auriemma to take a timeout.

Once again, Ducharme provided a much-needed spark. She drilled a 3-pointer to snap a nearly five minute scoring drought then later picked up a steal and dished to Mühl for a fast break bucket. At the end of the quarter, Creighton held the ball for the final shot with the shot clock turned off and the Bluejays set up an isolation for Tatum Rembao on Ducharme. Rembao tried to drive to the rim but Ducharme swatted the shot into the crowd.

UConn went into the final period with a 49-39 lead.

Ducharme scored the Huskies’ first basket of the fourth followed by a three from Williams on the fast break to push the difference to 15. Creighton called a timeout to try to regroup but Williams immediately scored again, which led to another timeout by the visitors.

UConn eventually grew the lead to 17 but then got sloppy with the ball down the stretch. Creighton out-scored the Huskies 16-7 over the final six and a half minutes, but UConn held on for the eight-point victory.

Paige Bueckers (knee), Amari DeBerry (COVID recovery), Azzi Fudd (foot) and Piath Gabriel (unknown) did not play but were on the bench for the game. Aubrey Griffin (back) wasn’t present at Gampel Pavilion because she was being evaluated, according to the school.

The Huskies had a light crowd of 6,636 fans at Gampel Pavilion for their first home game in 35 days.

With the win, UConn improve to 7-3 (2-0 Big East) on the season. Next up, the Huskies are scheduled to play at Butler on Wednesday.