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UConn WBB Weekly: The Huskies always figure it out

A week ago, the Huskies look as vulnerable as ever. Now, they look like a top contender for the national title.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

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  • Aaliyah Edwards was named as one of 15 finalists for the Wooden Award.

Somehow, someway, UConn always figures it out

On Monday night, the confetti fell on UConn as it hoisted the Big East Tournament trophy. The players took turns posing with the team’s newest hardware and eventually buckled it in for the ride back to Storrs. Geno Auriemma broke out in dance with his grandchildren and then again with the team.

It’s a scene that’s repeated each of the last 10 years for the Huskies. The last time they didn’t bring home a conference tournament title was 2013 — the final year of the old Big East. While most of those were cakewalks through an easy field — they didn’t lose a conference game from 2013-2022 — that wasn’t the case this year.

Just a week ago on Monday, the Huskies closed the regular season on a low note. They beat last-place Xavier, but only by nine. The Musketeers failed to win a single Big East game and UConn couldn’t put them away by more than single digits.

In fact, the Huskies' last 10 regular season contests were all decided by 10 points or fewer. They drifted through nearly the entire month of February in a funk and looked worse than any UConn team has since the pre-Maya Moore days.

The Huskies were the No. 1 seed in the Big East Tournament but if they were favorites, it wasn’t by much. Especially not with Villanova looming, which had won 19 of its last 21 — with the only losses coming to UConn — and featured Big East Player of the Year and the nation’s leading scorer Maddy Siegrist.

After the Xavier win, Geno Auriemma ripped into his team for being selfish, not taking Xavier seriously, and even turned the criticism on himself to say they looked poorly coached. Auriemma later admitted that he used those comments to send a message to his players, but his emotions were far from a show.

“I live a little west of town, of Storrs... the way I felt (after Monday) was like ‘I want to wake up in California in three days.’ I just want to keep driving. I don’t want to do any of that. I don’t want to come into practice,” he said.

The message Auriemma delivered to his team ended up being much simpler.

“I said, ‘You guys have exactly three days to fix whatever it is that happened tonight, either internally (with) yourself or team-wise. Take a look at it, or the season is going to end in the next two weeks,’” he relayed.

It got fixed. UConn came out and bludgeoned Georgetown 69-39 in the quarterfinals. It got revenge on Marquette with an 81-52 win in the semis. The Huskies then rolled over Villanova 67-56 in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicates to raise the trophy.

In the span of one week, UConn went from looking as vulnerable as ever to the typical “UConn of March,” as Marquette coach Megan Duffy put it.

No matter the circumstances, no matter who the Huskies have available, they always find a way to fix their problems and figure it out in March.

“Everything we went through this season, all the struggles, to still come out with the same outcome that we wanted to coming into the season is amazing,” Aaliyah Edwards said postgame.

It’s not just this season, either. Last year, UConn also dealt with a slew of injuries and suffered from a handful of tough defeats prior to March. Yet even with Paige Bueckers at less than 100 percent, the Huskies rallied to win the Big East Tournament and made it to the national championship game.

In 2020-21, UConn got embarrassed in a 90-87 loss at Arkansas that laid out the team’s flaws on the table. The Huskies used that defeat to turn the season around and eventually reached the Final Four.

Even during the 2019-20 campaign — when UConn had less talent and more strife than any other team in the program’s recent memory — the Huskies played their best basketball in the AAC Tournament. Even though they probably wouldn’t have reached the Final Four had the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic not canceled the rest of the season, that team maxed out its potential.

There were times this year where it seemed like everything that could go wrong did go wrong for UConn. Paige Bueckers and Ice Brady suffered season-ending injuries before the games even began, Dorka Juhász broke her thumb in the second game, Azzi Fudd went down with two different right knee injuries, Geno Auriemma missed time due to his health, Caroline Ducharme suffered a concussion that kept her out for over a month and right when the roster started getting healthy, the Huskies struggled on the court.

Despite it all, nobody will want UConn in its region during the NCAA Tournament after the Huskies claimed their 10th straight conference tournament title in convincing fashion. One week ago, UConn hit rock bottom. On Monday, the Huskies announced to the nation that they’re back.

Somehow, someway, UConn always figures it out.

Just as Auriemma expected.

“I always thought that if we’re going to have to suffer through all this, there’s got to be something good at the end,” he said. “That’s what I kept saying to the team. With everything that happened that was going bad, I said nobody deserves to be dealt this hand. So there must be something at the end.”

Top play

Photo of the week

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Best of social media

Geno hates how much he loves her antics:

Geno’s got moves:

A look inside the locker room after a win:

The seniors celebrate:

Bench mob on point:

Nobody loves Dorka more than Jonathan:

Jonathan was not having it:

Gameday braids: