UConn women’s basketball used a strong second half to surge past the Creighton Bluejays, 76-56 without head coach Geno Auriemma at the helm.
Auriemma traveled with the team to Creighton but fell ill with a non-COVID sickness just before tip-off, according to SNY. Associate head coach Chris Dailey took over and improved to 13-0 all-time as acting head coach.
“Right before the game, he just wasn’t feeling well. It’s not COVID related or anything like that but more the abundance of caution, as we say with everything,” Dailey explained postgame.
“I’m not a doctor, so (Auriemma was) just not feeling well. Not well enough to come out,” she added later.
The Huskies started horribly and trailed by as many as 12 points before out-scoring Creighton 56-24 over the final 23 minutes. Olivia Nelson-Ododa carried the team with 17 points, 14 rebounds and six assists — all of which were team-highs — while Christyn Williams also added 17 points.
UConn got off to a disastrous start on both ends of the floor. The Huskies missed their first five shots and barely looked like they were running on offense early on. Their first basket of the game didn’t come until the 6:51 mark, and they made just four shots in the entire first quarter.
Shooting wasn’t UConn’s only offensive problem. The Huskies coughed the ball up seven times in the first 10 minutes — most of which were unforced.
UConn’s offensive issues were compounded by poor play on the defensive end. Creighton opened the game 7-12 from the field with four makes from behind the arc.
Out of the first media timeout, the Huskies looked like they might’ve turned a corner when Williams forced a steal on the first possession and later scored but then she picked up her second foul and went to the bench.
Despite such a poor first quarter, UConn somehow only trailed by nine after one quarter thanks to a 3-pointer from Westbrook in the final minute.
In the second quarter, the two teams traded the first five baskets before the Huskies finally woke up with three minutes before the half. UConn ripped off a 10-0 run — thanks in large part to six points from Nelson-Ododa and improved defense — and cut the deficit to two at the break.
That momentum carried into the second half. The Huskies began the third quarter on an 8-0 run to take their first lead of the game and once they went ahead, they never looked back.
As the offense found its groove, the defense locked down. UConn held the Bluejays to just one basket in the first six minutes and just eight points total during the third quarter. After 30 minutes, the Huskies led by nine.
UConn never provided Creighton an opening to get back into the game and it slowly built its lead throughout the fourth quarter. The Huskies continued to stifle the Bluejays by holding them to just four baskets in the final period. Despite the early struggles, UConn eventually walked out with a comfortable 20-point victory.
Caroline Ducharme finished with 13 points but took a shot to the head late in the fourth quarter and did not return. Evina Westbrook scored 10 points to go with five assists and five rebounds while Nika Mühl had five points, five assists, five rebounds and no turnovers.
Dorka Juhász sat out her second straight game with a foot injury. SNY reported that Juhász will be out on Friday against Butler but the program plans for her to return on Sunday against Tennessee.
With the win, UConn improves to 14-4 on the season and 9-0 in Big East play. The Huskies will return to action on Friday when they host Butler at Gampel Pavilion.