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    UConn Women's Basketball
    Saturday, October 01, 2022

    Pieces are coming together for No. 10 UConn women, who face Providence on Sunday

    Azzi Fudd returned to the lineup after a 10-game absence and helped No. 10 UConn defeat DePaul 80-78 on Wednesday night. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

    It was Azzi Fudd's first workout on her way back from a right foot injury that cost her 11 games of the UConn women's basketball season and assistant coach Morgan Valley was incredulous.

    "Morgan was pretty impressed that, not having played in seven weeks or something like that, Azzi's first workout the other day — whenever it was — she made like 25 straight shots," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I bet you only one of them touched the rim. And she was just amazed that someone who hadn't touched the ball or shot the ball live could still shoot it like that."

    No. 10 UConn added two more missing pieces to its roster Wednesday night in a high-octane back-and-forth victory over DePaul, in which freshman Caroline Ducharme scored the game-winning basket with 1.6 seconds left for an 80-78 triumph in Chicago.

    Fudd, the freshman sharpshooter and former national high school player of the year, returned somewhat unexpectedly and senior Christyn Williams, who missed three games after fighting off COVID-19, was also back in the lineup. Fudd had 15 points, including three 3-pointers, and three steals. Williams had 17 points and three assists.

    For the first time in several weeks due to injuries and illness, UConn (12-4 overall, 7-0 Big East) had some leeway in its use of personnel, enough so that foul trouble to Olivia Nelson-Ododa (5), Dorka Juhasz (4) and Ducharme (4) wasn't a deal-breaker.

    "When you add somebody like that to the lineup," Auriemma said of Fudd, "that makes a lot of people feel a lot more confident ... especially me. And Christyn gives us something that we didn't have. ... Now we have a better opportunity to withstand some things and we're better offensively with those two for sure."

    "Honestly, just excitement," Fudd told SNY in a TV interview following the game. "There's no better feeling than one, getting to play again, but then getting to play in a tough game. It was just a lot of fun."

    UConn, still building toward the potential return of 2021 national player of the year and point guard Paige Bueckers — Bueckers had surgery to repair a left tibial plateau fracture and is out for an estimated eight weeks — will travel to Alumni Hall at Providence College for a Big East matchup Sunday against the Friars (7:30 p.m., SNY).

    Providence (9-10, 4-6) is led by 5-foot-10 junior guard Janai Crooms with 13.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

    Auriemma referred to surviving a pair of late turnovers, an errant inbounds pass by Fudd with 44 seconds left and a travel by Nika Muhl with 24 seconds remaining, as a sign the Huskies are maturing.

    "You really don't grow up until you inbound the ball to the other team twice in a row and you do it in a game and it didn't cost you the game, because if it cost you the game you'd be devastated," Auriemma said. "When I say we grew up, we did a lot of dumb things but we did just enough good things to win the game."

    Ducharme, who averaged 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in the first six games of her career, has averaged 17.1 points and 4.7 rebounds in the 10 games since Bueckers' injury.

    UConn also plays games this week at Creighton (Wednesday) and at home vs. Butler at Gampel Pavilion (Friday).

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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