Aaliyah Edwards had 19 points, 15 rebounds and three assists and her No. 7 UConn Huskies defeated the No. 10 Villanova Wildcats 67-56 in the Big East championship game Monday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
UConn led by five after one and by 10 at halftime before breaking the game wide open with a 27-15 third quarter. Villanova fought back with a 17-6 fourth, but it was not enough.
UConn’s status as a feared team was in question down the stretch of the regular season as they continued to barely beat some very weak teams in Georgetown, DePaul and, worst of all, Xavier (0-20 Big East).
However, 2021’s No. 1 Hoop Gurlz recruit Azzi Fudd returned from a right knee injury for the Big East Tournament and it has been domination for the Huskies ever since. They took care of Georgetown by the proper margin of 30 in the quarterfinals, beat Marquette by 29 in the semis and then defeated a very good Wildcat team more easily than the final score indicates.
With the win, UConn earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament; they were projected as a No. 3 seed in the latest ESPN bracketology, which came out before the Big East championship game. No 1 or 2 seed wants to face UConn in their bracket with Fudd back.
Fudd had 11 points and two steals in 32 minutes on Monday. Her teammates, who have carried the team for so long, were the ones who really stepped up. Edwards was backed up by Dorka Juhász’s 16 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. Nika Mühl added five points, six boards and eight helpers, while Lou Lopez Sénéchal was good for 14 points. Mühl recently broke UConn’s record for assists in a single season, a record previously held by the great Sue Bird. She played all 40 minutes on Monday while Edwards played 38.
Lucy Olsen had a solid stat line of 14 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals for Villanova, but went 4-of-20 from the field and 1-of-9 from 3-point range. Wildcat sharpshooter Maddie Burke also struggled from distance, going of 1-of-7. Those performances from beyond the arc really hurt the team’s chances. Superstar Maddy Siegrist led the Wildcats in scoring with 22 points to go along with her nine boards. She was 1-of-4 from outside.
UConn won field goal percentage 49.1 to 30.