UConn ladies ship message whereas defending Big East crown

Geno Auriemma stood on the stage inside Mohegan Sun Arena on Monday night time, and even he paused to soak within the second, as Sarah Kustok requested him the query: 

“What is it about the UConn Huskies program in the month of March?” 

It’s no shock that Connecticut claimed its convention file twenty first Big East championship on Monday, carrying down Maddy Siegrist and Villanova in a 67-56 victory. But the highway to get there — dropping Paige Bueckers and high freshman prospect Ice Brady to season-ending accidents, dropping Azzi Fudd for an prolonged time frame with a knee damage, Auriemma dropping his mom, Marciella — has been one which UConn had by no means traveled earlier than. 

So, on Monday night time, following the win in entrance of a capability crowd in Uncasville, it was trigger to pause for the Hall of Famer and replicate on that query that’s been requested for the final three many years. 

“I think the tradition that we’ve built here, the expectations that we’ve built … the kids who come here understand that,” Auriemma mentioned. “Because it was so hard, this one probably feels even more rewarding. Not that the other championships don’t, but this one has something a little extra special to it. I’m really proud of this, because it could have been easy for it to get away from us.” 

UConn coach Geno Auriemma on the Huskies capturing the Big East championship: ‘These youngsters know when it is March time’

UConn coach Geno Auriemma on the Huskies capturing the Big East championship: 'These kids know when it's March time'

After eight consecutive video games determined by 10 factors or fewer to shut out the common season, UConn ran by Georgetown, Marquette and Villanova within the Big East Tournament all by double-figures, beating the three opponents by a mixed 70 factors within the course of. 

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Monday night time was positively the largest problem, however the Huskies commanded the Wildcats behind the front-court duo of Aaliyah Edwards and Dorka Juhasz, who mixed for 35 factors and 23 rebounds within the victory. 

Edwards, the 6-foot-3 junior who was named Big East Most Improved Player and a unanimous all-conference first workforce performer, added extra {hardware} on Monday by locking up the convention event’s most excellent participant honor. 

Combining for 58 factors and 40 rebounds over the course of three victories, Edwards continued what has been an enormous yr, taking over the position that Auriemma thought she might have when she first entered this system. 

“You look at our best teams, whether it be with Rebecca (Lobo), Kara (Wolters), Breanna (Stewart), Napheesa (Collier) and the list goes on and on, and great post play has been so key to our success,” Auriemma mentioned. 

UConn ladies’s hoops hoist the Big East Championship trophy, Aaliyah Edward wins most excellent participant

UConn women's hoops hoist the Big East Championship trophy, Aaliyah Edward wins most outstanding player

There’s little doubt Connecticut possesses that once more, however the space in query with this workforce getting into the Big East Tournament was Fudd’s standing and the way the perimeter items would carry out. 

Fudd should be feeling issues out after lacking 14 video games forward of the Big East Tournament, however it might probably’t be overstated how a lot of a jolt she gives. Much like Bueckers returning close to the tip of the common season final yr and serving to to steer UConn to a 14th consecutive Final Four, Fudd’s return carries these vibes, as a result of with out her, the Huskies’ streak had by no means been in higher jeopardy. 

The celebrity sophomore completed with 11 factors on Monday, pulling down all three triples within the second half and serving to to place the sport out of attain for Villanova. 

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Fudd’s presence helps takes a number of the strain off Lou Lopez Senechal, who Auriemma mentioned following the sport had been such a key to the Huskies season that they wouldn’t have gained the Big East regular-season title with out her. Her steadiness stored UConn from withering, and that was on show on this event run, with three straight 14-point performances within the victories. The Fairfield switch could have solely joined this system for a season following 4 years with the Stags, however the way in which the France native stuffed in has been outstanding. 

“You see how we’re overcoming challenges and how we’re building this, and I’m really excited for what’s coming,” Lopez Senechal mentioned. “We’re a team that is always ready for March. Even if we have a rough stretch, we know how to overcome it. That’s why we’re here right now.” 

UConn vs. Villanova Women’s Big East Championship highlights

UConn vs. Villanova Women's Big East Championship highlights

And the place the Huskies are at is a 29-5 mark, main the nation with a complete of 11 top-25 NET victories after the victory over a Villanova workforce that was ranked tenth within the AP Top 25 on Monday morning and holds a NET rating of 12. 

The Wildcats had been tabbed at No. 14 within the NCAA’s last Top-16 reveal final week and have nonetheless gained 19 of their final 22 video games, with the one three losses coming to Connecticut on the streak. Denise Dillon’s 28-6 workforce remains to be in line to host NCAA Tournament video games on the Finneran Pavilion subsequent weekend, whereas Siegrist will eye extra historical past after locking up the Big East and Villanova’s all-time and single-game scoring data this yr. At 34 straight video games of 20 factors or extra, Siegrist is one shy of tying Kelsey Plum’s file of 35 consecutive video games of 20-or-more factors that she set in 2016-17. 

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On Monday night time, although, it was an all too acquainted sight following an unprecedented set of circumstances for a Connecticut program that has handled something and every part when it comes to obstacles over the past two years. And but, the Huskies championship DNA prevailed on as a result of that’s what Auriemma has constructed regardless of the names and instances altering. 

“It gets harder every year, and it’s supposed to,” Auriemma mentioned. “We’re fortunate to have kids who are willing to pay the price for how difficult it is. When you have a group of really good kids that you enjoy being around, and they enjoy being around each other, this is what happens.” 

What occurred on Monday for UConn was an opportunity to cease and recognize what this wild trip has been like, because the Huskies managed a top-10 workforce to win a championship. In the method, they confirmed the remainder of the nation that with Fudd again and the March expertise current throughout the roster, that Final Four streak might in reality keep intact and that the No. 1 seed that has to share a area with them is being given no favors from the choice committee.

John Fanta is a nationwide school basketball broadcaster and author for FOX Sports. He covers the game in quite a lot of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to offering commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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