Geno Auriemma knows his team is injury-riddled and exhausted, but at this point in the season the UConn coach doesn’t want his players leaning on any excuses.
“It’s time we stopped blaming the injuries, stop blaming fatigue, stop blaming tired,” he said. “We are where we are.”
And where they are is somewhere the Huskies haven’t been in a long time. They lost games to two unranked Big East squads, Marquette and St. John’s. And on senior night, No. 9 UConn (26-5) eked out a 60-51 win over Xavier, a team that is 7-22 on the season and 0-20 in conference play.
HUSKIES WIN@WellsFargo pic.twitter.com/xXA976DFeV— UConn Women’s Basketball (@UConnWBB) February 28, 2023
HUSKIES WIN@WellsFargo pic.twitter.com/xXA976DFeV
UConn has appeared in the last 14 Final Four’s, but that streak could be in jeopardy. Auriemma doesn’t see his team cutting down any nets this season.
“The way we are right now, this team, as it is right now, don’t add anybody … that ain’t happening,” he told reporters after the Xavier game. “Though they could fool me.”
His team exceeded expectations for much of the season, with wins over Iowa, Duke, Texas, NC State, Florida State and Tennessee, all of which are going to be NCAA tournament teams.
But as the season winds down, UConn has had more and more difficulty securing wins. Their last eight games have included three losses – to South Carolina, Marquette and St. John’s – and in the five wins, UConn’s average margin of victory has been 6.2 points.
“We don’t speak on defense, we don’t communicate,” Auriemma said. “That’s got nothing to do with tired or being injured. That has to do with a lot of selfishness and a lot of you don’t want to change. … I’m talking about they pick and choose when they want to listen to how they’re being coached, and I define that as being selfish, that you only care about what you want to do and not what you’re expected to do.”
Yet while Auriemma doesn’t want to blame injuries or fatigue, both are certainly factors.
The Huskies have played all season without star guard Paige Bueckers, who tore her ACL in August, as well as freshman Ice Brady, who dislocated her patella in the preseason.
They’ve also missed Azzi Fudd for most of the year. The sophomore has played in nine games, averaging 17.9 points per contest. She went through warmups against Xavier, but did not play. There is still no timeline for her return.
Other minor injuries have appeared throughout the season, and only Lou Lopez Sénéchal and Aaliyah Edwards have appeared in all 31 of UConn’s games. The team’s starting five – Lopez Sénéchal, Edwards, Dorka Juhász, Aubrey Griffin and Nika Mühl – all average over 32 minutes per contest, with point guard Mühl playing 36.4 minutes per game.