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    Saturday, December 03, 2022

    Fudd leads the way as UConn women roll in opener

    UConn's Azzi Fudd, left, participates in a 3-point basket contest as teammate Paige Bueckers, right, looks on during First Night events for the school's men's and women's basketball teams on Oct. 14 in Storrs. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
    UConn women's basketball head coach Geno Auriemma speaks to the media during First Night events for the men's and women's basketball teams on Oct. 14 in Storrs. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    Storrs — UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma was asked what he likes the most about coaching sophomore Azzi Fudd aside from her usual jaw-dropping accuracy from 3-point range.

    The first thing that came to mind was her self-assuredness.

    Then, Fudd, who scored 26 points to lead No. 6 UConn to a season-opening 98-39 victory Thursday night against Northeastern before 9,171 fans at Gampel Pavilion, followed Auriemma to the interview room.

    Fudd’s point total came without her usual barrage of 3-point field goals — she had nine of them in a lopsided preseason exhibition victory against Division II Kutztown. Against Northeastern she went 1-for-8 from 3, not hitting a long-range shot until there were 6 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the game.

    “Well, I’m really lucky to have teammates that keep encouraging me even when I miss,” Fudd said with a smile. “They were still telling me to shoot it and I was like, ‘I’m done shooting for the night.’”

    So much for self-assuredness.

    “Just attacking, getting to the rim, doing other things helps me get at least in that rhythm to make the one 3 that I did make,” Fudd said. “Just having my teammates in my ear telling me to keep shooting and keeping my confidence up means the world.”

    Fudd started for UConn, which won its 27th straight season opener, along with fellow returnees Aaliyah Edwards, Nika Muhl, Dorka Juhasz and and newcomer Lou Lopez Senechal, a graduate transfer from Fairfield.

    In addition to Fudd, Edwards (14 points, 12 rebounds) and Juhasz (14 points, 11 rebounds) had double-doubles and Lopez Senechal had 17 points, including a four-point play in the fourth quarter.

    Fudd shot 9-for-17 overall, 7-for-7 from the foul line and added six steals and four assists for the Huskies, who were playing Northeastern (1-1) for the first time since 2009.

    The win extended UConn’s streak without back-to-back losses to 1,060 games after finishing last season 30-6 with a loss to South Carolina in the national championship game in Minneapolis. That streak dates back to 1993.

    Auriemma said that onlookers should know by now that Fudd is more than her prowess from long range, even if that’s a stat in which she prides herself.

    “I mean, I would think that everybody knew that,” Auriemma said. “But if they didn’t know ... that’s the way she played when she was in high school. She didn’t just stand in one spot and fire up 3s. She scores a lot of different ways and I was happy to see her be so aggressive with the ball.”

    Fudd, a 5-foot-11 guard from Arlington, Virginia, and the former top recruit in the nation, played in just 25 games for UConn last season, missing time with a foot injury. In her limited time, she averaged 12.1 points per game, shooting 58-for-135 (.430) from 3-point range.

    She was named a preseason All-Big East Conference first team selection.

    Auriemma, who complained about his team’s defense earlier in the year, praised it Thursday, as the Huskies scored 43 points off turnovers. At one point in the second quarter, there were two straight plays where UConn players dove on the floor for loose balls.

    “The defensive energy in the game was pretty much what set the tone and it carried over pretty much throughout the entire game,” the coach said. “There were a couple little lapses, but that was it.”

    UConn led 51-19 at halftime behind 15 points from Fudd. Fudd was 6-for-10 shooting with her only misses from 3. She was 3-for-3 from the free throw line and added four steals.

    Edwards had 12 points and nine rebounds at the half, going 6-for-6 from the foul line, and Lopez Senechal had 11 points, including three 3-pointers.

    In the third quarter, Fudd continued her drought from 3-point range, while Edwards converted an offensive rebound early on to record her fourth career double-double.

    Redshirt junior Aubrey Griffin, who missed all of last season with a back injury, added a steal, cross-over dribble and an all-out sprint to a layup, freshman Ayanna Patterson scored her first career points, a free throw followed by a field goal in rapid succession, and the Huskies led 72-27 after three quarters.

    Griffin, first off the bench for UConn, finished with 13 points and five rebounds.

    UConn was playing without All-American Paige Bueckers and freshman Ice Brady, both out for the season with knee injuries, and sophomore Caroline Ducharme missed the opener with a stiff neck.

    Gemima Motema had 11 points for Northeastern (1-1), which turned the ball over 31 times.

    UConn next faces No. 3 Texas at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Gampel. Former UConn All-American Swin Cash, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this fall, will have her No. 32 retired prior to the game, joining Rebecca Lobo’s No. 50 in hanging from the Gampel rafters.

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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