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Geno Auriemma: UConn injury déjà vu a ‘real punch in the gut’

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(Lance King/Getty Images)

UConn’s injury woes have continued into this season, and it’s led to the Huskies’ players and coach experiencing déjà vu from years past.

“It just kills me to watch us play sometimes,” head coach Geno Auriemma told reporters after practice on Friday.

Last month, star guard Azzi Fudd went down with an ACL and meniscus tear in her right knee that will sideline her for the rest of the season. Junior guard Caroline Ducharme, meanwhile, remains out with neck spasms, and her timeline for return remains unclear.

“Don’t ask me how long, because I wish I knew,” Auriemma said of Ducharme. “You don’t know when they’re coming and you don’t know how long they’re going to last. We just keep trying and trying and trying. … I feel terrible for the kid.”

Many had thought this year would be different. Paige Bueckers, the 2021 National Player of the Year, is back from the ACL tear that kept her sidelined last season. Fudd, who has dealt with injuries throughout her career, started the season fully healthy. Now, Fudd and Jana El Alfy, who tore her Achilles tendon in July, will both miss the rest of the season. Sophomore forward Ayanna Patterson is also out following an offseason knee surgery.

In their absence, UConn has lost two of their last three games, including an 80-68 defeat to Texas on Sunday. The 4-3 Huskies haven’t lost three games this early in the season since 1980.

“I think they were all anticipating that this year was going to be different, that this year all that was going away and that was all behind us. And the response, I think, has been like a real punch in the gut. Like, ‘I’ve got to do this again,’” Auriemma said. “Me seeing that and me seeing their frustration, and them seeing mine, I think it’s inevitable. You can’t hide it.

“And I probably have not handled it great internally, and probably externally at times, as well. And that’s my job is as an adult, to make sure that I handle it, make sure that I am in complete control of myself and that I’m able to [answer], ‘How do I get each individual through another season?’ Like anybody else you know, I don’t think anybody deserves to be in this situation as many times as we’ve been in it.”

After all the injuries UConn has dealt with in the past few years, senior guard Nika Mühl said Friday that she doesn’t “know any different.”

“I feel like that’s the only cards we’ve been dealt since I’ve been here,” Mühl said. “So overcoming adversity is not something unfamiliar to us.”