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UConn women’s basketball guts out win over Princeton, 69-64

The Huskies survived injuries to Nika Mühl and Lou Lopez Sénéchal in the second half while Aubrey Griffin carried the team with a career-high 29 points.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

UConn women’s basketball picked up one of its gutsiest wins ever, defeating the Princeton Tigers 69-64.

Nika Mühl suffered an apparent head injury in the third quarter when she hit the back of her head on Aaliyah Edwards’ knee after colliding with a Princeton player. She needed to be helped off the court and went into the locker room. Mühl did not return to the bench.

In the fourth quarter, Lou Lopez Sénéchal — who had 18 points — came up limping with four minutes left in the game, went to the bench at the next timeout and did not return. With both players injured, Caroline Ducharme and Inês Bettencourt were the only guards left.

Without any ball handlers remaining, UConn committed 14 turnovers in the fourth quarter and saw its lead crumble from as many as 15 with 7:14 remaining to two with 46 seconds left. After that, Aubrey Griffin responded with a basket to push the gap to four points but Princeton answered right back to pull back within two points with 30 seconds left.From there, an unlikely hero emerged.

On the ensuing possession, Princeton fouled Bettencourt, who went to the line for the first free throws of her collegiate career. She went 1-2 to give UConn a three-point cushion and on the next possession, the Tigers turned it over with just seconds left. Bettencourt hit two more free throws to seal the victory.

Griffin carried the Huskies’ shorthanded offense, dropping a career-high 29 points on a perfect 11-11 night from the floor — which tied Rebecca Lobo’s program record for the most field goals without a miss in a single game. She also scored UConn’s last five baskets.

Edwards finished with eight rebounds to go with eight points while Amari DeBerry was the first player off the bench and had four points and two assists in a career-high 26 minutes.

As a team, UConn shot 59 percent from the field and 50 percent from three but turned the ball over 27 times.

Despite being without Fudd, UConn didn’t have any problems scoring early on. Lopez Sénéchal found the basket on the first possession and totaled seven points in the five minutes. However, the Huskies struggled with turnovers — Princeton scored four points off UConn’s first three giveaways — and allowed the Tigers to shoot too many open threes.

As a result, the Huskies led just 13-12 at the first media timeout but after the break, they used a 7-0 run to build an early advantage. One of the key factors in that stretch was DeBerry, who scored on her first touch and was plus-7 in her seven minutes of action in the first quarter. Through 10 minutes, UConn led by seven.

As the second period began, the Huskies’ offense stalled. They failed to find the basket for nearly the first two minutes until Lopez Sénéchal drained a 3-pointer to snap the drought and Griffin followed that up with seven-straight points to give UConn a 15-point lead.

The Huskies only managed 11 points in the entire second quarter and failed to hit a shot in the final 4:28 but still went into the half up by 12 thanks to a stellar defensive effort. They limited the visitors to six points in the period, held them without scoring for 7:28 and forced 13 consecutive misses. At the midway point, Princeton had only scraped together 20 points — fewer than UConn had in the first quarter.

Out of the break, Griffin and Lopez Sénéchal continued to carry the offense. Griffin scored eight of the Huskies’ first 10 points in the quarter while the duo combined for 25 of the team’s 31 points in the middle two periods.

In the fourth quarter, UConn held on for dear life. Griffin hit a 3-pointer with 7:14 left to put the Huskies up by 15 points but after that, the turnovers started to pile up. Princeton, now coached by former UConn guard Carla Berube, implemented a press defense to exploit UConn’s lack of a ballhandler and made it difficult for the hosts to get the ball over half court.

In the end, the Huskies did just enough to pull off the five-point victory and avoided back-to-back losses for the first time since March 1993, extending a streak of 1,067 games.

Next, UConn will travel to take on No. 20 Maryland on Sunday.