UConn’s Azzi Fudd scores 14 in return for 8-game absence

ELMONT, NY — Sophomore Azzi Fudd returned for No. 4-ranked UConn on Wednesday night against St. John’s after missing the previous eight games with a right knee injury.

Fudd scored 14 points in his first game in a month and grabbed three rebounds as the Huskies won in an 82-52 rout at UBS Arena. She shot 6 of 11 and hit 2 of 4 from beyond the arc.

Fudd played 20 minutes and said unlike last year when she came back quickly from a foot injury, she wanted to make sure her knee was fully healthy before playing.

“I feel like the knee is a lot worse than my foot last year,” Fudd said. “I didn’t have any preparation time before coming back. [last year]. I wanted to make sure I was ready.”

Fudd had an expected recovery time of three to six weeks after being injured Dec. 4 in the first quarter against Notre Dame. UConn went 7-1 in his absence, losing to Maryland and also falling to the Irish when they were unable to play in the second half.

The 5-foot-11 guard led the team in scoring to start the season, averaging 20.6 points on 53.3 percent shooting (42.6 percent from 3) and was one of the top National Player of the Year candidates.

Fudd, who was cleared to return to play about two weeks ago, came into Wednesday’s game midway through the first quarter and made an immediate impact as the Huskies took a 17-11 lead at the end. of the period. They blew the game up in the second, beating Red Storm 24-9 to go up 21 at halftime.

“It was a progression. She looked really good and a matter of feeling more comfortable and she did it,” said UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey, who replaced Geno Auriemma during the post-match media session. “We thought today was going to be the day.”

The Huskies have been decimated by injuries since preseason, when 2020-21 National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers and rookie Ice Brady were ruled out for the 2022-23 campaign with a torn ACL and dislocated kneecap. , respectively.

All but two players on the list have missed a game due to injury, illness or travel issue.

Junior Aaliyah Edwards suffered an ankle injury and rookie Ayanna Patterson suffered a concussion last week against Xavier, which prevented the Huskies from having the seven players required to play Sunday against DePaul and forced the Big East to postpone the game.

While UConn picked up Edwards on Wednesday, sophomores Caroline Ducharme and Patterson remain in concussion protocol.

Auriemma was also back on the bench Wednesday after missing the Huskies’ previous two games because he wasn’t feeling well. He also missed two games while sick in December. The 68-year-old Hall of Famer is also mourning the death of his 91-year-old mother in early December.

“He said he was coming on a trip, that’s when I knew,” Dailey said. “I just wanted to make sure he was in the right place and he should be back and he was ready to come back. He assured me he was.

Lou Lopez Senechal scored 20 points, hitting eight of nine shots to lead the Huskies against the Red Storm. Dorka Juhasz added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Edwards finished with 15 points.

“Obviously it’s always a tough game when you’re playing against a team of this nature,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “I was happy with the way we competed. We had a few streaks where we played with a lot more energy than we’ve played all year, especially in the third.

It was the first women’s basketball game played at UBS Arena, home of the NHL’s New York Islanders. There was a men’s basketball game between Notre Dame and Saint Bonaventure in November.

UConn was scheduled to play at Seton Hall on Jan. 19, but with DePaul’s game rescheduled for Jan. 23, the Huskies moved the game up against the Pirates two days forward. If it wasn’t, UConn would have had a five-game-in-10-day streak. The Huskies host Georgetown on Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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