UConn Huskies secure fourth consecutive Big East Tournament Title

Geno Auriemma and the UConn Huskies Women's basketball team defeat Georgetown 78-42 to earn their fourth straight Big East Tournament title. Riddled with injuries, the Huskies are ready for a NCAA Championship run.

(Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It's not about the setback, it's about the comeback. This may be the year that the Connecticut Huskies women's basketball team shocks the world.

Out of the seven players available for the Big-East championship title, four of them are freshman.

Despite coach Geno Auriemma's playful comment that his team might be a bit "delusional," every player on the team has faith in their abilities, even amidst the challenges they've faced this year. After watching Saint Peter's make headlines in 2022, it's hard to count any team out, especially Connecticut.

The UConn Huskies are largely considered one of the most prolific programs in all of NCAA women's basketball, leading the way with 11 national championships. Led under coac h Auriemma, UConn hasn't won a title since 2016, and are two years removed from the championship finals loss against South Carolina. We can never forget how Paige Bueckers single handedly carried her team to the finals.

While Auriemma is among the most winningest coaches in Division 1 basketball, UConn's story is defined by their resilience and determination to overcome several injuries not only this year, but seasons past.

Prior to the start of the season, UConn was ranked no. 2 in the nation, by the Associated Press. With high hopes and expectations, the injuries piled up, reflecting a recurring unfortunate trend. Specifically the last few seasons, Auriemma and the Huskies have faced unfortunate circumstances beyond their control.

UConn is the definition of resiliency

This group has been all bout resiliency. After a turbulent 4-3 start, UConn suffered losses to NC State, UCLA, and Texas all within the first two weeks. They went on to win their next 25 of 27 matchups, and finished with nine straight victories, including the Big East Championship game. Perhaps, the motto for this year should be "impossible is nothing," by Nike.

Speaking of the Big East, more than 7,000 fans crowded Mohegan Sun Arena to watch Connecticut play against Georgetown for their 22nd Conference championship appearance. With a 25-9 season record, the Huskies faced a Georgetown team that made their first ever appearance in a Big East Conference championship game. Defeating the Bulldogs 78-42, the story mainly revolves around UConn's defensive prowess and discipline.

In all of Division 1 basketball, the Connecticut Huskies rank no 23 in the nation, tied with South Carolina in opponent points allowed per game (56.3).

Limiting Georgetown to just seven fourth quarter points, the Bulldogs finished shooting 11 percent from deep, and 32 percent from the floor. Not only did Connecticut play stellar defense along the perimeter, they crushed them on the boards and inside the paint. Forcing 17 turnovers, the Huskies starters combined for 12 total steals. In the backcourt, Buecker's and KK Arnold combined for seven alone.

Auriemma calls this team "remarkable"

For coach Auriemma, he's been at this a long time, having led the Huskies to 34 years of NCAA tournaments. Fighting back emotions at the end of the matchup, he admitted it's not easy winning in the month of March. While teams such as South Carolina and LSU remain the most dominant and spoke about, UConn's comeback year has been a bit under shadowed by all the excitement across women's hoops.

In just a few days, the Huskies had their share of challenges yet again. Despite Aliyah Edward's injury, they had a strong 86-53 win against Providence. Even without Edwards, they managed to defeat Marquette, holding them to just 29 points.

"Obviously, these have been three pretty interesting days," coach Auriemma said about the Big East Tournament. "The energy that it took to finish this off was really pretty remarkable. Couldn't be prouder of them." (UConn Huskies PR).

The Huskies were dealt several injuries this year

The focus has heavily been on Buecker's determination in returning to the hardwood after succumbing to several injuries over the years. With a strong connection to her faith, she returned to the court just 19 games following a meniscus tear, but suffered an ACL tear last season. Bueckers, who's the heart and soul of the Huskies, remained sidelined for the entire 2022-2023 season.

She had her healthiest season yet, ending her third year with a career-high 21.3 points and 1.4 blocks. Buecker excelled on both ends, averaging 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 steals, and 2.7 assists. Through a career-high 34 games, she shot an impressive 53.8% from the field and 42.4% from deep. Buecker's stellar two-way performance continued in the Big-East championship game, where she led with 27 points and five blocks.

Initially, freshman Jana El Alfy was sidelined for the entire 2023-2024 season after an Achilles injury. With Fudd already out, junior Caroline Ducharme played only four games before injury ended her season. Then, in January, guard Aubrey Griffin tore her ACL.

Despite dropping to rank no. 17, UConn rebounded and is now ranked no. 10 heading into the NCAA National Tournament.

The steady ready freshman core has stepped up for UConn

Auriemma leaned on senior Edwards and Bueckers, but the focus shifted to freshmen Ashlynn Shade, KK Arnold, and Ice Brady stepping up in the biggest of moments. Despite limited bench depth, UConn's dependable group has been key. With just healthy seven players, the Huskies get yet another shot of a title. And this time, several freshman have the opportunity to shine on the brightest stage, next to Edwards, Bueckers, and Nika Muhl. Let's not forget freshman Qadence Samuels, who put up 9 points and 5 rebounds for the Huskies.

Brady, a California native, stepped up remarkably over the tournament. Only averaging 4.6 points on the year, the forward 23 points combined in the tournament matchups against Georgetown and Marquette. And on a back-to-back, Brady led UConn with 40 minutes played. A part of the stay ready group, she was a force on both sides of the ball, with Edwards unable to suit up.

And for the Auriemma and the Huskies, they just have to remain confident through all of the ups and downs.

The Huskies remain confident regardless what's thrown their way

"Nothing good is going to happen unless you're confident in yourself that you can make it happen, " coach Auriemma told SNY. "It would have been easy to feel sorry for yourself, why us again? Why are we dealing with this again? The resilience is remarkable. They inspire me, a lot of times, to be better for them because of how positive they are."

While Selection Sunday will take place this weekend, the Connecticut Huskies will gear up for the first-round of the NCAA Tournament, which will begin on Mar. 22. With Edwards and Muhl expected to declare for the 2024 WNBA Draft, Bueckers announced her return to UConn for a final and last season. Although Edwards has missed the last two games, she'll return, this time, wearing the mask yet once again.

Stay tuned for more NCAA and WNBA related articles.

Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter, Content Creator and Social Media Manager for Ballislife Bets. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut/NYC area with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.


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