After collecting three losses before the start of conference play this season, no doubt many college basketball fans questioned the state of the UConn dynasty.

But Aaliyah Edwards has been playing high-quality basketball of late, helping the Huskies to prove the doubters wrong. 

“When (Aaliyah) plays the way she’s played these last four, five games, she’s an All-American player,” head coach Geno Auriemma said to CT Insider’s Maggie Vanoni after UConn’s match against Toronto Metropolitan — a homecoming game scheduled specifically for Edwards in her home country.

Edwards relished her Canadian welcome. She mouthed along to “O Canada,” and is proud of the show that she put on north of the border. 

“I hope it leaves a big impact on just women’s basketball in Canada,” Edwards told CT Insider. “I know a lot of people were there to support either myself or of UConn, but I would just encourage anybody just to go watch their local team, just women’s basketball in general…”

The sold-out crowd at Mattamy Athletic Centre exploded into applause for Edwards when her name was called in UConn’s lineup before the match. Her recent play deserves this level of fanfare.

The Huskies’ last five games have been wins for the team. And in those games, Edwards is averaging almost 19 points per game. Against Toronto Metropolitan, UNC, Ball State and Butler, the senior forward put up double-doubles. 

The senior and her high-scoring teammate, Paige Bueckers, have hit their stride for UConn and it’s reflected in the team’s success. The energy is palpable for Auriemma as well. He told Vanoni that he likes the positive energy his team is feeling into the holiday break. 

“I like where we are right now,” he said.

Yet another UConn Husky will be sidelined for an extended period of time after a serious injury. This time, it’s Ayanna Patterson. 

Patterson will be out for the remainder of the 2023-24 season after undergoing surgery on her left knee for patellar tendonitis that she’d been experiencing since high school. The sophomore hasn’t appeared in any games for UConn so far this season, but last season she made 30 appearances for the squad. Patterson averaged two points and two rebounds per game during her freshman season. 

“Ayanna’s been dealing with patellar tendonitis since high school. She’s been rehabbing and undergoing treatments and decided with our medical staff that it was time to take care of the issue,” Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement on Friday. “We’ll support Yanna through her rehab process and we anticipate she’ll make a full recovery. We look forward to having her back with the team on the court.”

Patterson’s injury predates her time with the Huskies, but this is not the first of UConn’s injury woes. Most notably, Paige Bueckers missed an entire season with a torn ACL in 2022-23. In fact, Bueckers has missed so much playing time that she only has 56 college games under her belt as a senior.  

This season, Azzi Fudd’s ACL and MCL injuries are the biggest hit to UConn’s roster. Fudd appeared in two games for the Huskies in 2023 before injuring her knee at practice in November. 

UConn is off to one of its worst starts to a season in recent memory, and while there could be multiple factors at play to cause the relatively poor start, the quantity and severity of injuries on the team could be the biggest contributor.

Tiffany Hayes is retiring from the WNBA, she announced on a new episode of the “Counted Me Out” podcast. But the 2017 All-Star still plans to play in international leagues.

“You could still catch me overseas,” Hayes said. “I just figured I’d focus on one thing and then summer time I could turn up my business. I could turn up life with my family and just live life like that.”

The 2023 WNBA season ran from May through September, while most international leagues operate on the opposite seasonal schedule, running from the fall through the spring. Hayes is playing for Shanghai in the Chinese Women’s Basketball Association this offseason.

“I don’t want to play two seasons anymore. I’m really at a crossroads right now. Which one do I play?” Hayes told The Athletic while playing in Turkey last offseason.

After playing 10 seasons with the Atlanta Dream, the 34-year-old guard signed a one-year deal with the Connecticut Sun in 2023. She averaged 12.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.6 assists.

“It’s a lot of things,” Hayes said about her decision to step away from the WNBA. “I really feel like I’m older now. I got a lot of stuff that I really always want to get into but I’m so busy ’cause I’m playing year-round. Plus, my body, playing 11 seasons straight with no breaks, every year, two seasons in a year every time, that’s a lot.”

Hayes won two NCAA championships with UConn in 2009 and 2010, then became the No. 14 pick in the 2012 WNBA Draft. Hayes made her only All-Star appearance in 2017, and she was named to the All-WNBA First Team in 2018.

Once again, UConn basketball is navigating major injuries.

This season, though, the Huskies are doing so with Paige Bueckers on the court instead of on the sidelines – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges.

Already UConn is dealing with two season-ending injuries to Azzi Fudd and Jana El Alfy. Ayanna Patterson and Caroline Ducharme also are sidelined.

As a result, Bueckers has been tasked with playing multiple roles. And while she’s the best player UConn has, it’s taking some time for her teammates to adjust both to having her back in the lineup and to her playing new positions.

“We’re not completely there yet on how to seamlessly incorporate all the other people with the way Paige wants to play. And I don’t know when that will be 100% like I like it,” head coach Geno Auriemma said Sunday, as reported by CT Insider. “Right now, we just have to go with what we got and hope that every game we can get more contributions from more people.”

That means better off-ball movement around Bueckers, who runs the offense for UConn.

“We have to find a way to get more people consistently engaged around her,” Auriemma continued. “If she’s not getting enough assists, that means we’re not doing a good job moving without the ball because she would find you if we are, and that’s been a serious problem for this team for quite some time now.”

Through nine games, Auriemma has experimented with six different starting lineups. It’s about the Huskies attempting to “mix and match and find our way,” according to Auriemma. But eventually, he trusts, the team will figure it out.

“We’re all still trying to figure out how to play together as a basketball team and get sort of a chemistry within each other,” Bueckers said. “We’re all just trying to figure out how to be the best in our roles that we can be every single night and stay consistent in that.”

Azzi Fudd’s family couldn’t quite believe it when she told them that she had torn her ACL and would miss the rest of the season for UConn basketball.

“I was in a state of devastation for her,” her father Tim Fudd told CT Insider. “She’s worked so hard to get herself right and to have this now happen again, it’s like, ‘Dang, like, she has worst luck with stuff in this.’

“We felt like she had gotten over these stupid injuries and like all of a sudden, she calls and it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh. What is it? Why does this keep happening?’”

Fudd tore the ACL and meniscus in her right knee during practice on Nov. 14. So after playing just two games for the Huskies, Fudd will miss the remainder of the 2023-24 season.

The No. 1 recruit in the class of 2021, Fudd has struggled with injuries throughout her three years at UConn. A foot injury in her freshman season kept her out of 11 games, and a knee injury last season had her absent from 22 games.

And Fudd is not the only UConn player to struggle with injuries over the last two seasons. Paige Bueckers tore her ACL and missed her junior season before returning for the 2023-24 campaign. Freshman Ice Brady also missed last season with an injury. And that’s not accounting for the time missed by other players throughout last season; at one point, UConn had to postpone a game due to a lack of available players.

And with Fudd and Jana El Alfy out for this season, the injuries have raised questions about the Huskies’ support staff. WNBA star Diamond DeShields posted on social media after Fudd’s injury: “Who the strength coach there …? Cuz WTF.”

But Tim Fudd quickly came to the defense of Andrea Hudy, the director of sports performance for UConn women’s basketball.

“It has nothing to do with the strength coach,” he tweeted Friday. “She is actually really good. These injuries are the flukiest things I’ve ever seen. Things have occurred that you would see in some rare occasions.”

Hudy and the UConn staff have been focusing on limiting injury risks through different pre-rehabilitation workouts and data studies on each individual athlete. The Fudds met up with Hudy in the Cayman Islands to discuss how best to help Azzi moving forward.

“You can’t control every scenario, right?” Azzi’s mother Katie Fudd told CT Insider. “You can prepare their bodies but there’s nothing you can do to manipulate situations to keep everyone safe but there’s nothing you can do to manipulate situations to keep everyone safe and healthy. You know, it’s kind of like driving down the street. You might be the best driver in the world, but you can’t control a bad driver, right?

“She (Azzi) really likes Hudy and really trusts her. And we do too. I think she’s taking the time to get to know us and let us get to know her a little bit so that we have that trust and respect. And we’re confident that they’re gonna get her where she needs to be. I don’t have any doubts about that.”

Azzi Fudd will miss the rest of the season for UConn basketball with ACL and meniscal tears in her right knee.

The junior guard played two games to start the Huskies’ season before suffering the noncontact knee injury during practice on Nov. 14. Fudd will have surgery at UConn Health at a later date, the program announced in a news release.

“We’re all just so upset for Azzi,” head coach Geno Auriemma said in a statement. “She worked hard to be healthy for this season, and it’s unfortunate when you put in a lot of hard work and have a setback like this.”

After Fudd’s sophomore season at St. John’s College High School (D.C.), she tore the ACL and MCL in her right knee while playing in a U-18 tournament with USA Basketball.

Over her first two college seasons, Fudd has been in and out of the Huskies’ lineup with injuries. She missed two months due to a foot injury in her freshman season, though she averaged 12.1 points in the 25 games she did play. She dealt with multiple knee injuries during her sophomore season, averaging 15.1 points in just 15 games.

While Fudd entered her junior season with high hopes, she played in just two games before suffering her latest knee injury. UConn has won two games without her in the lineup and will have to navigate the rest of the 2023-24 season without her.

“Azzi loves the game and works tirelessly,” Auriemma said. “I’m confident she’ll rehab with the same work ethic and come back better than ever. We’ll obviously miss her presence on the court, but Azzi will continue to be a great teammate and important part of this team this season. Our program will support Azzi through her recovery however we can.”

No. 6 UConn (3-1) will face No. 2 UCLA (4-0) in its next game at 7:30 p.m. ET Friday.

UConn’s Paige Bueckers grew up watching basketball in her home state of Minnesota. She has memories of Lynx and Golden Gophers games at Williams Arena — she attended those games starting when she was 10 or 12 years old.

Now, Bueckers will return to The Barn, but not as a spectator.

“It’s super surreal because I grew up going to games at The Barn and watching the Gophers and watching the Lynx play there,” Bueckers said to the Hartford Courant. “So to be playing there, where I grew up, my childhood, at my dream school wearing a UConn jersey in that arena, it’s like a surreal feeling for me.”

The Huskies are set to take on the Gophers in Minnesota at 5 p.m. ET Sunday in a homecoming game for Bueckers. Bueckers will be taking the same court her childhood idols took over a decade ago.

“I envisioned it when I was younger,” Bueckers said. “Just wanting to be the people who were playing on the court. As a young kid, that was where I wanted to be. You never knew what the future was going to hold, but it was something I aspired to do.”

UConn’s head coach Geno Auriemma goes out of his way to schedule homecoming games for his seniors, including two international matchups this season — one for Nika Mühl in Croatia during the Huskies’ preseason tour and one for Aaliyah Edwards in Toronto, which will be played in December.

Williams Arena is likely to be packed when the local star makes her return — more than 10,000 seats are expected to be filled when Bueckers takes the court at the 14,625-seat arena.

Among those 10,000 people will be Bueckers’ family, friends and other Minnesotans in the basketball community. And Bueckers credits these people with her upbringing.

“You often hear the phrase ‘Minnesota nice,’” Bueckers told CT Insider. “I think everything around here, just everybody knows everybody. Everybody’s nice to each other. Everybody’s like family once you meet them. So, I think that just is sort of why I love relationships, why I love people so much and why I love getting to know people so much and I think that has a lot to do with where I’m from.”

But for Bueckers, a homecoming game isn’t just about seeing family and friends. It’s about being who Rebekkah Brunson and Lindsey Whalen were to her for other young girls.

“I want to be an inspiration to kids,” Bueckers said. “I want people to see that injuries happen, adversity happens, but what do you do to come back from it? How hard do you attack that process? I want people to see passion when they see me play, fire and energy and that I love the game.”

UConn basketball dropped six spots to No. 8 in Monday’s edition of the AP Top 25 poll. But star guard Paige Bueckers isn’t worried about the rankings.

The Huskies’ fall from the No. 2 ranking came after Sunday’s 92-81 loss to then-unranked NC State. The defeat to the Wolfpack stood out in several ways:

  • UConn has not started a season with a 1-1 record since 2014.
  • UConn had not lost to NC State since the 1998 Elite Eight.
  • UConn had not allowed 92 points in regulation since 2001.
  • UConn has six ranked losses against unranked opponents over the last three seasons, compared to four in the 20 seasons before that.

Even after the loss, though, UConn did make some positive history. The Huskies’ presence in the AP Top 25 poll breaks the record for most consecutive weeks as a ranked team at 566, surpassing Tennessee at 565.

Yet as Bueckers said ahead of the NC State game, she is not paying attention to the ups and downs of her team’s ranking this season. She only cares about one metric: an NCAA championship.

“We only care about being No. 1 in April, and we have yet to do that since we’ve been here at school,” Bueckers said. “So rankings during the regular season really don’t mean anything to us.”

The most recent of UConn’s 11 national titles came in 2016. Bueckers joined the Huskies in 2020, and she wants to win her own before her time with the program is up, whenever that may be.

“It’s about getting better every single day at practice, building great habits and continuing to get better on both sides of the floor, communicate, hold each other accountable,” Bueckers said. “And I think those are the main goals in order to build habits to be the No. 1 team in April.”

No. 2 UConn basketball was upset by an unranked NC State team on Saturday evening, 92-81. The last time the Wolfpack beat the Huskies came in the 1998 Elite Eight.

NC State junior Saniya Rivers stood out as the player of the match, draining 33 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for her squad. Rivers also drew fouls throughout the game, and she shot 10-14 from the free-throw line.

UConn head coach Gino Auriemma told his NC State counterpart Wes Moore that the Wolfpack team is “10 times better than last year,” as CT Insider’s Maggie Vanoni reported after the game.

“Everything they did was better than ours. … They were just on top of their game more than I remember. We got our asses beat plain and simple,” Auriemma said.

The Huskies made a palpable offensive effort, with two of their starters bagging over 20 points — Paige Bueckers dropped 27, while Aaliyah Edwards contributed 21. Bueckers was playing in her second game since her return from an ACL injury.

However, UConn struggled on the defensive end of the court. Four out of five Husky starters were in foul trouble by the end of the game, racking up at least four fouls, with Nika Mühl fouling out.

“We weren’t mature enough to handle it,” Auriemma said of his team.

UConn grabbed 11 fewer rebounds than NC State, with 29 to the Wolfpack’s 41. NC State cashed in on 12 points off rebounds and 12 second-chance points.

“We’ve got a sh— attitude towards rebounding … and that’s got to change,” Auriemma said.

With UConn’s loss to NC State and No. 1 LSU’s season-opening loss to Colorado, the top two teams in the preseason AP Top 25 have lost before the second AP poll for the first time in at least 25 years, according to ESPN.

Paige Bueckers is back, even if she had what she considers to be a bad game.

For the first time in 584 days, Bueckers played for UConn basketball in the Huskies’ season-opening 102-58 win over Dayton. After missing last season with an ACL injury, the redshirt junior notched 8 points on 3-for-9 shooting, as well as 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal.

“In my opinion it was a bad game for me,” Bueckers said. “But I’m grateful to have a bad game right now.

“I’m still learning how to give myself grace. I’m not ignorant enough to think that it’s going to be a linear trajectory this whole time. I’m super grateful in the fact that I get to go try again on Sunday and be even better on Sunday.”

Bueckers played just 21 minutes in her first game back, and she sat on the bench for the entire fourth quarter. But the 21 minutes were still an increase from the 11 she played in a Saturday exhibition game.

“There’s a medical minute restriction and then there’s my restriction. And she’s not gonna like mine,” head coach Geno Auriemma said. “She’s so anxious to play, she wants to be out there and she wants to do everything, be everywhere and do everything.”

There is a level of leadership, Auriemma said, that the team requires from her. But he understands that Bueckers is anxious to get back to her old self.

“She’s so far ahead of herself. She wants to get it all back on each possession,” he said, noting that she was trying to do everything. But the depth of UConn’s bench helps Bueckers to not carry the entire load.

“We know that as a team, we have a lot of weapons, and it’s not a one-man team where somebody has to carry more of the load than others,” she added. “It’s a very equal and well-balanced team.”