NEW YORK (AP)UConn welcomed Geno Auriemma back to the bench and Azzi Fudd to its lineup in a rout of St. John’s.
Fudd scored 14 points in her first game in a month after injuring her right knee as the fourth-ranked Huskies routed St. John’s 82-52 on Wednesday night at UBS Arena.
Auriemma had missed the Huskies’ previous two games because he wasn’t feeling well. He also missed two games while sick in December. The 68-year-old coach is also grieving the death of his 91-year-old mother in early December.
”He said he was coming on the trip, that’s when I knew,” said associate head coach Chris Dailey who filled in for Auriemma in the postgame media session. ”I just wanted to make sure he was in a good place and he should come back and he was ready to come back. He assured me he was.”
The Hall of Fame coach had been likely to miss a third game as the Huskies were set to play DePaul last Sunday, but that game was postponed when UConn (14-2, 7-0 Big East) didn’t have enough available players due to injuries. It will be made up on Jan. 23.
Fudd, a sophomore guard who came in averaging 20.6 points, injured her knee against Notre Dame on Dec. 4 and missed the next eight games. She had been cleared to resume playing about two weeks ago.
”It’s been a progression. She’s looked really good and a matter of feeling more comfortable and she’s done that,” Dailey said. ”We thought today was going to be the day.”
Fudd played 20 minutes and said that unlike last year when she came back from a foot injury quickly, she wanted to make sure her knee was fully healthy before playing.
”The knee I feel like it’s a lot more serious than my foot last year,” Fudd said. ”I didn’t have any prep time before I came back (last year). Wanted to make sure I was ready.”
UConn also got back Aaliyah Edwards (foot) but still was without Ayanna Patterson (concussion), Caroline Ducharme (concussion), Paige Bueckers (knee) and Ice Brady (knee).
Lou Lopez Senechal scored 20 points, making eight of her nine shots to lead the Huskies. Dorka Juhasz added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Edwards finished with 15 points.
Kadaja Bailey scored 17 points to lead St. John’s (14-2, 5-2).
”Obviously always a difficult game when you’re playing a team of this nature,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. ”I was pleased with the way we competed. We had a couple stretches where we played with a lot more energy than we played all year, specifically in the third.”
Fudd checked into the game midway through the first quarter and made an immediate impact as the Huskies built a 17-11 lead by the end of the period. They blew the game open in the second, outscoring the Red Storm 24-9 to go up by 21 at the half.
It was the first women’s basketball game played at UBS Arena, home to the NHL’s New York Islanders. There was a men’s basketball game between Notre Dame and Saint Bonaventure in November.
”Great experience to play the first women’s game here,” St. John’s forward Danielle Patterson said. ”Something we’ll all remember.”
UConn was set to play Seton Hall on Jan. 19, but with the DePaul game’s new date, the Huskies moved up the game at the Pirates by two days. Had they not, UConn would have had a stretch of five games in 10 days.
UConn: Hosts Georgetown on Sunday.
St. John’s: At Villanova on Saturday.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25