Welcome to the UConn WBB Weekly, a recap of everything that happened in the world of UConn women’s basketball over the past week.
The Weekly is a newsletter! Subscribe to get it in your inbox every Thursday at 7 a.m. before it hits the site.
From the UConn WBB Weekly Premium:
- Mailbag: Did we learn anything from Paige Bueckers’ sophomore season?
- UConn offers 2024 guard Imari Berry
- UConn offers top 2025 prospect ZaKiyah Johnson
From The UConn Blog:
- Chasing Perfection: UConn’s non-conference schedule, recruiting news and bandwagons
- UConn women’s basketball to open Phil Knight Legacy against Duke
Last week’s Weekly:
In other news:
- Four UConn players made the Big East All-Academic Team: Paige Buckers, Azzi Fudd, Dorka Juhász and Nika Mühl.
The best moments from UConn’s 2021-22 season
UConn’s 2021-22 campaign was certainly memorable — even if it wasn’t for the right reasons. Injuries hindered the team all season long and there were stretches where it seemed like a different key player went down each time out. While the Huskies rallied down the stretch, they lost in the national championship game for the first time in program history.
As difficult as the year was, there were plenty of bright spots along the way.
Paige Bueckers returns in style
After being sidelined for three months with a knee injury, Paige Bueckers finally made her return on Feb. 25 against St. John’s at the XL Center. It was only natural that she came back with a bang.
She came off the bench and checked in as the crowd gave her a standing ovation midway through the first. With seven seconds left in the quarter, Bueckers took the ball up court and put a dribble fake on the initial defender — a move eerily similar to the play she got hurt on 82 days earlier. She attacked the basket and went to pull up at the elbow but had the ball knocked loose. Bueckers recovered it with a second to go and nailed the shot as the buzzer sounded.
The XL Center exploded as if she hit a game-winner, not a first-quarter basket to put UConn up by 22. Bueckers let out a scream and threw her hands in the air in front of the student section. As she turned back to the bench, her teammates mobbed her at half court.
Bueckers couldn’t just come back normally. She had to re-introduce herself in dramatic fashion.
“It wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t something extra,” Bueckers said postgame.
Geno gets existential in the Bahamas
Most people would be happy to get an all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas. But Geno Auriemma wasn’t in the mood for it last November. After UConn arrived on Paradise Island for the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, it was only a few moments before the he got real.
“It’s nice that we play at noon tomorrow. If we win, you can go out and have a great time and celebrate. If we lose, just go out and walk into the ocean and keep walking in and don’t come back,” he said with a laugh. “There’s a lot of ways that you can take advantage of what’s here. I asked our guys this morning, I said ‘How far is the ocean?’ They said five minutes. I said, ‘Good, I’ll have to keep that in mind.’”
After the Huskies lost to South Carolina, Auriemma’s morbid humor continued.
“I’m gonna find out where the sharks are and try to go swimming there,” he said when asked about his plans for the next day.
Caroline Ducharme lifts UConn past DePaul
UConn doesn’t have many last-second, game-winning baskets. There’s Bird at the Buzzer in the 2001 Big East Tournament final — the Huskies’ last true buzzer-beater — Barbara Turner’s heave in the 2006 Sweet Sixteen, Ketia Swanier’s scramble at DePaul in 2008, and now, Caroline Ducharme’s bucket at DePaul this past season.
With 8.3 seconds left and the game tied at 78-78, UConn put the ball in the freshman’s hands and asked her to make a play. Ducharme drove to the basket, stopped, and threw up an awkward one-handed shot that went off the backboard and in with 1.6 seconds left. The Huskies held defensively and earned the victory.
CAROLINE. DUCHARME. pic.twitter.com/SSTNDDpkec— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) January 27, 2022
“You can draw up any play you want but at that point in the game, nobody’s gonna let you run whatever you draw,” Auriemma said. “Somebody just has to make a play and I’m not surprised that Caroline made it.”
Azzi Fudd becomes the latest freshman to sink Tennessee
In three games of the Tennessee revival series, a UConn freshman has played a central role in the victory. In 2020, Aubrey Griffin terrorized the Vols on defense to the point where they started throwing the ball into the stands. The next year, Bueckers returned from a sprained ankle and hit a dagger 3-pointer in the final minute.
Azzi Fudd took the mantle this past season. Less than an hour before tip-off, the Huskies announced Caroline Ducharme wouldn’t play due to a head injury which left the team without its leading scorer since Bueckers’ injury. In her place, Fudd stepped up with a game-high 25 points, including 16 points on 6-of-6 shooting in the second half.
It was the type of performance typically seen from a senior, not a freshman in essentially her fourth collegiate game. After struggling with a foot injury for most of the year, Fudd showed why she was considered one of the best prospects ever out of high school.
“Makes it look easy, doesn’t she?” Auriemma said afterward. “It’s like a machine, man.”
UConn downs NC State in double-OT thriller
Where do you even start with this one? UConn had to overcome a season-ending injury to Dorka Juhász, missed layups and free throws at the end of regulation, a foul on a 3-pointer that gave NC State a chance to tie the game as well as a game-tying triple at the end of the first overtime.
It also featured a second-half takeover from Bueckers, who came alive with a game-high 27 points — 23 of which came after halftime including 15 in overtime. She missed just a single shot from the field in the final 30 minutes of the game and hit crucial baskets time and time again down the stretch.
“We have Paige Bueckers and they don’t,” Christyn Williams said postgame.
“Paige is different,” Auriemma said. “She was made for these moments.”
UConn won 91-87 to advance to its 14th straight Final Four. With all the twists and turns, this game should go down as one of the most thrilling wins in the history of the program.
Geno vs. Muffet
When UConn was sidelined due a COVID outbreak in late December and early January, Auriemma managed to stay in the news by getting into a war of words with former Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw. She accused ESPN of having a bias towards the team and being “Connecticut’s network” — despite the fact that the company doesn’t even own the rights to the team’s home games.
Auriemma didn’t take kindly to the comment. If Muffet shot a pea shooter in his direction, Auriemma retired fire with a full naval bombardment.
“I guess Muffet is bored. I guess she didn’t have a whole lot to talk about and usually when she was coaching, when she did talk, nobody listened anyway,” he said.
“I don’t think the bias has anything to do with where ESPN is located (in Bristol, Connecticut) or where UConn is located,” he added later. “I think the bias has something to do — if there is any — with the 11 national championships, which is a lot more than two (which is how many Notre Dame has). I remember that on Sesame Street. 11 is a lot more than two.”
“She did say we won more than anybody except Tennessee. Which, again, I think she missed Sesame Street growing up. 11 is more than eight,” he said, referencing the national championship totals of UConn and Tennessee, respectively.
Even after the rivalry ended on the court, Auriemma still found a way to score a victory over McGraw.
Best of social media
Behind the scenes of UConn’s strength training:
Summer session complete ✅ ☀️ Proud of this crew pic.twitter.com/RtAnSGoL5p— Andrea Hudy (@A_Hudy) July 26, 2022
Paige Bueckers, ladies and gentlemen:
*Amari and the girls on IG live while at a restaurant*— kayla dos (@kaylados) July 24, 2022
*everyone else orders water*
Paige Bueckers: “can I have a Shirley temple?”
A typo on the Phil Knight Legacy tournament website led to some fun jokes:
Qadence Samuels has HOPS:
How athletic is UConn commit Qadence Samuels?— Daniel Connolly (@DanielVConnolly) July 25, 2022
Highlights from KK Arnold and Ashlynn Shade:
End of an era: