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Big East/mid-major update: No. 5 UConn shows off talent of its less-heralded players

Aaliyah Edwards, Lou Lopez Sénéchal, Dorka Juhász, Aubrey Griffin and Nika Mühl have shown that the UConn Huskies are loaded even when Paige Bueckers and Azzi Fudd don’t suit up.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Butler at Connecticut
Aubrey Griffin is averaging 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds for UConn this season.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a look at how the notable teams outside the Power 5 have been doing:

No. 5 UConn Huskies (18-2, 11-0 Big East, No. 2 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 24 Bracketology)

The Huskies have dominated their last three contests and have done so without Azzi Fudd.

Imagine how good this team would be with Fudd and Bueckers or even just Fudd. Or even with Caroline Ducharme (concussion protocol) back. Ducharme missed all three games too and No. 4 Hoop Gurlz recruit Ayanna Patterson (concussion protocol) missed the first two before returning for the third. Ducharme is averaging 8.6 points and 4.6 rebounds, which isn’t insignificant. She’s also shooting 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.

The first game of the stretch saw the Huskies defeat Seton Hall 103-58 on Jan. 17. Seton Hall beat Marquette and St. John’s when those teams were ranked and right now Seton Hall, Marquette and St. John’s are all on the bubble. So UConn winning that game by 45 was quite impressive.

The next two blowouts (of Butler and DePaul) were more expected, but still impressive for the Huskies, given they’re not at full strength.

Against Seton Hall, Aaliyah Edwards, Dorka Juhász and Aubrey Griffin all scored 20-plus. Edwards averaged 21.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, four assists, two steals and 1.7 blocks over the three games.

No. 17 Gonzaga Bulldogs (19-2, 9-0 WCC, No. 6 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 24 Bracketology)

The Bulldogs had their two closest calls in WCC play on Jan. 14 (a 73-66 win over Portland) and last Thursday (an 81-78 win over Pacific). Portland is 14-6 overall and that loss is their only one in WCC play. But Pacific is tied for last in the conference at 2-7 (7-13 overall). The 81 points scored was solid, but Gonzaga allowed 78 points (17.7 more than their average allowed) to a team that averages 68.1. The only time it gave up more this season was in its 84-63 loss to now-No. 3 Stanford. The Bulldogs bounced back with an 82-57 win over Saint Mary’s (10-10, 4-5 WCC) this past Saturday. They have won 12 in a row and have not fallen out of the rankings since entering on Nov. 28.

Over the last week (two games) Yvonne Ejim averaged 23 points and eight boards.

No. 21 Villanova Wildcats (18-3, 9-1 Big East, No. 6 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 24 Bracketology)

Last Tuesday, the Wildcats earned a season sweep of Xavier by winning 76-38. But that was expected as the Musketeers are 0-10 in Big East play (7-12 overall). Villanova faced more of a challenge in the Creighton Bluejays last Friday and dominated early before holding on to win 73-57. The Bluejays entered the season ranked No. 21 and are responsible for the Wildcats’ lone Big East loss (a 67-46 decision on Dec. 2). The Wildcats demonstrated how much they’ve improved since then, returning the favor on Creighton’s home court.

Over the last two games, Maddy Siegrist averaged 25 points and nine rebounds. She became the program’s most prolific scorer during the Creighton game and now has 2,414 career points. Lucy Olsen averaged 19 points, 6.5 boards and 5.5 assists over the stretch.

Villanova’s next game is a Jan. 29 showdown with UConn at the XL Center in Hartford.

No. 23 Middle Tennessee Lady Raiders (16-2, 9-0 Conference USA, No. 8 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 24 Bracketology)

The Lady Raiders’ last two games were both solid wins. They beat Charlotte 65-41 last Thursday and Louisiana Tech 68-50 this past Saturday. Both the 49ers and Lady Techsters are 4-5 in Conference USA play. The exciting news for Middle Tennessee is that it moved from receiving votes to No. 23 in the rankings on Monday.

Kseniya Malashka led the way against Charlotte with 18 points, eight rebounds, two steals and five blocks. It was completely different against Louisiana Tech, as Savannah Wheeler shouldered the scoring load with 29 of the team’s 68 points. Malashka (16.2 points per game) and Wheeler (16.1) are the Lady Raiders’ top two scorers.

RV (31 points) South Florida Bulls (18-4, 7-0 AAC, No. 6 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 24 Bracketology)

Like Gonzaga, the Bulls endured a scare recently: they only beat Houston (6-13, 3-3 AAC) by two last Wednesday. The 58 points they scored is tied for the lowest output they’ve had in a win this season. This past Sunday, they got a more satisfying result when they topped UCF 83-51.

The Bulls have had an interesting season with wins over Texas (projected No. 7 seed) and Arkansas (No. 8 seed) and close losses to No. 2 Ohio State, No. 13 Michigan and No. 20 NC State.

Over the last two games, Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu averaged 20 points, 15 rebounds and two steals.

RV (1 point) UNLV Lady Rebels (19-2, 9-0 Mountain West, No. 12 seed in ESPN’s Jan. 24 Bracketology)

The Lady Rebels began receiving a single voting point this week after extending their undefeated opening to Mountain West play to 9-0. Over the last week they have notched a 71-57 win over Wyoming and a 63-58 win over Colorado State. Both the Cowgirls (12-7, 5-3 Mountain West) and Rams (13-6, 6-2 Mountain West) are doing well, so those were quality wins.

Essence Booker averaged 22.5 points, six rebounds and two steals over the stretch.