College basketball broadcaster and reporter
UConnThe women’s basketball program cannot take a break.
That’s how it feels again, as the university announced on Tuesday that sophomore superstar Azzi Fudd will miss three to six weeks with a right knee injury suffered in the second quarter of the loss. Sunday’s 74-60 vs. our Lady.
It’s no coincidence that the Irish picked up their biggest win over the Huskies since 2004, as UConn needs Fudd to function as one of the top ten teams in the country. In UConn’s three wins over the top ten opponents this season, Fudd has played 118 of a possible 120 minutes. Geno Auriemma couldn’t get the head guard off the ground.
With Paige Bueckers and five-star rookie Ice Brady struggling with season-ending injuries, Auriemma challenged Fudd to be the best player in the country because that’s what she should be for UConn to achieve their goals this year. .
The second has delivered in every direction until this loss, having 32 points against Texas and NC State, and 24 points with four assists against Iowa. All three of those games resulted in UConn wins.
Without Fudd on the floor, scoring is going to be a challenge for the Huskies. Fairfield transfer Lou Lopez-Senechal will have to play a bigger role in scoring, while junior point guard Nika Muhl will have to score herself. Fudd is one of the main reasons for Muhl’s 10.1 assists per game. What happened on Sunday, with Lopez-Senechal and Muhl playing every 40 minutes against the Irish, will likely happen again in the Huskies’ next showpiece games.
UConn will also have to play more on the job with junior Aaliyah Edwards, who is averaging 15.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. She will get some help when 6-foot-5 senior forward Dorka Juhasz returns from injury (broken thumb). Juhasz had 20 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists in his two games this season. Without Fudd, expect the Huskies to rely even more on their defense, and it will be important for Edwards and Juhasz to control the paint and avoid fouls.
Plus, Fudd’s injury magnifies what junior Aubrey Griffin and second Caroline Ducharme are doing for the Huskies. Not everything can be Lopez-Senechal and Muhl, so others will have to rise to the occasion.
As Lopez-Senechal scores at a high rate, it has become easier for her and everyone involved to make meaningful contributions with the defensive attention Fudd has garnered.
The good news for UConn is that Fudd should be back between late December and mid-January. However, her injury history of a torn ACL and MCL in 2019, as well as a kicking backhand that sidelined her for 11 games last year, are certainly cause for concern.
After a home game against Princeton on Thursday, UConn faces a tough road test Sunday at No. 20 Maryland. The team will then have a week off before a matchup with Florida State on Dec. 18. The Huskies will follow that up with a game against a Seton Hall team that earned a top-25 win over Marquette last Sunday.
With Fudd, the Huskies would have been favored in all those games, but it will be difficult for them to stay unscathed with the next stretch. The team’s offense will be much more limited with an All-American missing and no one to replace his full abilities.
Fudd’s return schedule will be particularly interesting to watch due to what UConn has at the end of this month. The Huskies travel to No. 18 Creighton on December 28 to face a Bluejays side 7-1 after an Elite Eight run last season. This is probably the first Fudd who might be available to return.
The Huskies will need a fully healthy Fudd to keep their historic streak of 14 consecutive Final Fours intact. While it’s not a worst-case scenario, it’s another episode of doom for a program that has suffered some tough injuries that have held it back for the past two years.
Earlier this season, Auriemma said the unique challenge of missing Bueckers and Brady boosted his energy level on the sidelines. Now that challenge has just reached a new level, and in the weeks to come, a group of quality plays will have to resume production with Fudd joining Bueckers and Brady on the bench.
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John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as the main host on the BIG EAST digital network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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