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With Fudd and Auriemma back, UConn puts rest of top 25 on notice

UConn's Azzi Fudd returned Wednesday after missing eight games with a knee injury. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)

With sophomore guard Azzi Fudd back on the court and coach Geno Auriemma back on the bench, No. 4 UConn women’s basketball rolled to an 82-52 win Wednesday night against St. John’s.

“She’s baaaaack,” injured Huskies star Paige Bueckers said of Fudd in the pregame warmup. She offered a warning not just to the Red Storm but to the college basketball world at large: Fudd is back, and so are the Huskies — if they ever really left.

The 2023 season has brought a parade of injuries and absences for UConn.

Bueckers tore her ACL in August, and freshman Ice Brady also is out for the season with a dislocated right patella. Dorka JuhászAubrey Griffin and Nika Mühl all have missed time. Caroline Ducharme and Ayanna Patterson sat out Wednesday’s game in concussion protocol.

Fudd returned Wednesday after missing eight games with a right knee injury, while coach Auriemma returned after missing two straight games due to illness.

Despite their depleted lineup, the Huskies (14-2) have continued to win. Fudd injured her knee in a Dec. 4 loss to No. 7 Notre Dame, and the team lost again a week later to No. 9 Maryland. But UConn quickly righted the ship and has since reeled off seven consecutive victories.

With Fudd back on the court, the Huskies are all the more dangerous. The sophomore guard scored 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting in 20 minutes off the bench Wednesday, and she averaged 20.6 points per game before her extended absence.

“It sucked,” Fudd said of the injury. “Any injury for anyone, it’s always the worst. Just having to sit on the side for so long and having to watch everyone with the injuries we’ve been dealing with, having to watch our team go through these ups and downs and knowing that I can’t be on the court helping them has been worse. So I’m just really happy to be back on the floor.”

Lou Lopez Sénéchal led the Huskies with 20 points against St. John’s. Juhász added 18 points as well as a team-high 10 rebounds and seven assists.