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UConn WBB Weekly: Azzi Fudd reintroduces herself with third quarter surge vs. Baylor

The sophomore went off and scored 16 of her 22 points in the frame as UConn turned a tied game into a 12-point lead.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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Azzi Fudd reintroduces herself with third quarter surge vs. Baylor

In UConn’s win over Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Azzi Fudd had a quiet outing. She scored just five points in the game, shooting 2-10 from the floor and 1-8 from deep.

Still, Fudd has looked better than anyone could have expected for someone who missed so much time since returning to UConn’s rotation in the Big East Tournament. She’s moved well on both ends and hasn’t appear to be limited by her knee. Her shots still look good as they leave her hands, but they’ve struggled to actually meet the bottom of the basket.

“I think she takes it upon herself that ‘I am who I am and I need to make every shot.’ That’s why she is spends hours and hours and hours out there making 150 out of 175 threes or 150 out of 160 over and over and over again during the summer, because she wants to be — she wants to perfect it,” Geno Auriemma said. “So I said, ‘I’m worried. I hope she gets off to a good start and doesn’t press a little bit.’”

Fudd didn’t get off to a great start on Monday night, missing her first two attempts from the field. Auriemma knew she needed to see the ball go through the net, so when Baylor’s Ja’mee Asberry was called for an intentional foul after whacking Lou Lopez Senechal in the face, he sent Fudd to the line.

“I mean, Lou is the one that got whacked in the face, she’s really good free throw thrower. It’s like ‘Lou, sorry, we need Azzi to see the ball going in the basket,’” said Auriemma.

That temporarily got Fudd going some as she knocked down a three pointer immediately after missing the second free throw of the pair. Still, she made just one more basket for the rest of the half as UConn took a narrow five point lead into the locker room.

That all changed in the third quarter, where Fudd became the focal point of UConn’s offense. Her scoring became one of the main catalysts of the Huskies’ third quarter surge to take a 12-point lead into the final frame.

“In that third quarter, we made a concerted effort to make sure she touched it in certain spots on the floor and then she did the rest,” Auriemma said. “Nika is great at finding her no matter where she is, and she doesn’t hesitate.”

Finding Fudd paid off as she scored 16 points in the third quarter — singlehandedly outscoring Baylor in the same period. Fudd was 7-12 from the floor in the third, and found her success on the offensive end in multiple ways. She knocked down two triples, but also hit shots in the midrange and driving to the basket. Her 16 point effort in the third, led her to 22 points on the night, the most Fudd has scored since the November meeting against Iowa in the PK85 tournament.

“Azzi Fudd looked like the Azzi we were watching in November before she got hurt,” Baylor coach Nicki Collen said. “She was making her pull-up, getting all the way to the basket. She was obviously an all-American player today.”

Fudd didn’t even realize she scored 22 points following the game, as the sophomore was still frustrated with the misses (she finished the game 9-22 from the floor). But she credited her teammates and coaches with helping her to stay aggressive on the offensive end, even when not everything is going through the basket.

“I think just keeping that mentality and mindset that the next one is going in to keep being aggressive and that’s why I’m so grateful for having such encouraging and supportive teammates and coaches to keep reminding me to keep being aggressive keep shooting and they believe in me. So them having that belief in me, helps instill my confidence as well,” Fudd said.

Even if it wasn’t the best complete game for Fudd, the player that UConn relied on so heavily to start the season returned in the third quarter of the game against Baylor. Continuing to unlock that as the Huskies’ tournament run continues will be important as each game gets tougher than the next. But Fudd’s teammates have the utmost confidence in her ability to deliver when the ball is in her hands.

“If she misses 100 shots that game, I would still get her the last shot for the win. That’s how good of a shooter she is. She is definitely the best shooter that I’ve ever played with,” Nika Mühl said. “I can’t wait to see what she’s going to go for the rest of the tournament because it’s only the beginning from here.”

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