March Madness: Allie Edwards leads improved UConn play as Huskies aim to keep streaks alive

Back in November, when Connecticut won back-to-back games against the net’s top 25 teams—two of 11 Coach felt like he was going to produce one seed for everyone else – Geno Auriemma revealed the essence of the huskies’ fate.

It wasn’t Zazi Fud, the stellar sophomore who took more of the brunt of the scoring. It wasn’t sanitary, which the huskies fought through and never let them drown.

“It is really fair or unfair to say,” Orima said. After an impressive 91-69 victory Around NC five months ago. “But the players beyond us will decide the fate of our season.”

The 6-foot-5, 6-3 fifth-year forward has challenged rookie Aaliyah Edwards to dominate the team and provide consistency when shots don’t fall. It was clear Saturday, though, that a lot of shots fell, at UConn’s 95-52 win against no. 15 Vermont during the first round of the NCAA Tournament held in Storrs, Connecticut.

Their improved play, which Auriemma called amazing Saturday, was crucial for UConn to weather the injury storm and was on display in the Huskies’ first step into their 15th consecutive Final Four.

Edwards, whose rise has been a key role, led them in pace with a stacked streak of 28 points, seven rebounds, five assists, four steals and two blocks. They had as many points in the first quarter as Vermont as a team (12) and were a perfect 8-of-8 in the half, and stayed 10-of-10 in the first media timeout of the second half. A few came in the midrange, including Jamal’s pass from Fudd to the paint.

“When you do a mid-range jump shot, it just changes how our team defends,” said Auriemma. “So it’s one of the best games. The first half I played in, I thought was one of the best halves of basketball I’ve seen her play since she was in Connecticut.”

UConn’s Aaliyah Edwards, left, is guarded by Vermont’s Anna Olson in the first half of the first round of the NCAA Women’s Tournament on March 18, 2023, in Storrs, Connecticut. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

By the end of the match, she had only missed 2 tries out of 15 of her season total. She is the first player since 2000 to have at least 25 points, five rebounds and five assists while shooting at least 85%.

“We couldn’t match her athleticism, strength, and explosiveness,” said Vermont trainer Alyssa Kress. “We didn’t have an answer for her. The game plan was to try to double down on some, but she’s up for things like that. I thought she did a great job getting us deep in the paint, and then when we played it kind of ambient, she hit two ambient shots.”

Edwards, a pool player for the Canadian national team, was an insignificant factor in UConn’s run to the 2022 title game. She scored a career-high 10 points in the final regional overtime win against NC State, a total she couldn’t match against the more powerhouses in the game. Semifinal against Stanford (9) or final against South Carolina (8 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists per game (37 minutes).

In the game against the Wolfpack in the second game of the season, she had a double-double-high 20 points and 12 rebounds on 8-of-13 shooting. She doubled her game averages as a junior to 16.9 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.2 blocks per game to earn third-team honors All-American. Her 58.3% shooting clip directs the team as does her scoring.

It was not a one-share success story. Juhász came off the bench in her last NCAA tournament, her first after transferring from Ohio State, and had 10 points in the first round. She scored only five goals in the next three matches and was unable to play in the Final Four after injuring her wrist.

This season in a regular starting role, she also doubled her averages to 14.3 points, 10 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks a game. 50% of her field goals are career bests. She scored 15 points, second to Edwards, in Vermont’s 7-of-10 shooting win with 10 rebounds (all defensive), six assists, three steals and three blocks.

“She’s very down to earth off the field, but once you’re on the field she’s fierce, and I don’t think anybody should take that lightly,” Edwards said. “She’s a force on the inside and out. I think we as a team like that about her because she’s so unpredictable in that way because she can take advantage of low, but also on the perimeter, she can knock 3’s that everyone knows she can.”

UConn forward Dorka Juhasz looks for a shot against Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Women's District 3 tournament in Seattle 3 on March 18, 2023, at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut.  (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

UConn forward Dorka Juhasz looks for a shot against Vermont in the first round of the NCAA Women’s District 3 tournament in Seattle 3 on March 18, 2023, at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. (M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Caroline Ducharme came off the bench to hit 4 of 4, including two three-pointers, for 12 points. All players achieved the 10 minutes, an unlikely note until a few weeks ago when I started the Big East quarterfinals with all players available for only the second time this season. Paige Bakers and freshman Ice Brady will miss the season with injuries.

Edwards is one of only two UConn players to play in every game Where injuries hit the list hard. The other is guard Lou Lopez Sénéchal, a Fairfield transfer who brought the touch shooting UConn needed in Fudd’s absence. I went out early in the second half and didn’t come back. Sénéchal said she overextended her leg and Auriemma didn’t want to take any chances.

Having a healthy No. 10 will only help Edwards and Johas more. The UConn Wings are a bigger threat that will draw defensemen out of the two. They’ll face fewer doubles and triples teams, which gives them more room to work and increases the pace of the transition from the “real intensity” it was.

“We couldn’t do as much defense, we couldn’t do as much offense,” said Orima. “Now you see the difference and the results are what they are. I’m glad it happened. It only took five months.”

UConn was 61.9% from the floor collectively and 6-of-18 from 3-point range. Fed was 2-of-10 overall, 1-of-8 on 3-point shooting, for five points with four rebounds.

They dominated the Boards, 43-19, assisting on 27 of their 39 shots. Defensively, they allowed Vermont 11 3s, but held them to 33.3% of shooting overall.

It was a nice warm-up for the second round where they will face no. 7 Baylor. win and off to Seattle where they will play the Pacific region during the tournament for the first time since 2007.

It was the last time they missed the Final Four, but the big boys know that more than just stats in the game notes, fate rests with them.

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