Any questions of just how much UConn women’s basketball missed Azzi Fudd were answered Monday, as the star sophomore played her best game since her return from injury in the No. 2 seed Huskies’ 77-58 second-round win against No. 7 seed Baylor.
Fudd played 37 minutes and scored 22 points in the victory, both the highest marks for the guard since Nov. 27, just before she sustained the first of two knee injuries that kept her out for most of the season.
While coach Geno Auriemma did not plan to lean quite so heavily on Fudd in just her fifth game back from injury, her ability to play — and to play at a high level — is a credit to her recovery process. And she’s still “getting stronger,” he said after the game.
“That’s way more than I wanted to play her,” he said. “But at the same time, that just goes to show you how far she’s come back and how she feels…
“I’m just glad she’s healthy and can play because I know how much she’s missed it. But the impact that she has on a game is just immeasurable.”
Azzi Fudd 👏-22 points, her most since November-16 third-quarter points pic.twitter.com/eMgENebG68— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) March 21, 2023
Azzi Fudd 👏-22 points, her most since November-16 third-quarter points pic.twitter.com/eMgENebG68
Fudd scored 16 points in the third quarter, more than the whole Baylor team, though she demurred when asked about her impact on the game.
“I think everyone played an incredible role tonight, but just keeping that mindset of being aggressive and having my teammates and the coaches continuing to remind me to don’t stop shooting, keep shooting, keep looking for your shot, I think that’s what it was,” she said.
Indeed, the 5-11 sophomore is still finding her shot after her injury-riddled season. She shot 40.9% (9-for-22) from the field Monday, better than in any game since her return from her second knee injury on March 4, but below the 53.3% shooting efficiency she managed before her first injury on Dec. 4.
Her teammate Nika Mühl, though, said the Huskies still feel Fudd’s impact, even as she continues to work her way back to full strength.
“Azzi’s trying to be humble here, but if she misses 100 shots that game, I would still get her the last shot for the win,” Mühl said. “That’s how good of a shooter she is. She is definitely the best shooter that I’ve ever played with. Her shot is perfect…
“Azzi got hot today, and I can’t wait to see what she’s going to go for the rest of the tournament because it’s only the beginning from here.”