HARTFORD, Conn. – Freshman Azzi Fudd made the most of her first start with a stellar effort against Tennessee.
She scored a career-high 25 points to help No. 10 UConn beat the seventh-ranked Lady Vols 75-56 on Sunday.
“Azzi looked happy playing basketball today,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Sometimes kids that come in with that kind of hype, it’s like an obligation. Today she looked like a happy kid playing a game she loves.”
Fudd was playing in only her eighth game this season after injuring her foot in late November. She just returned a few games ago.
“This is not how I expected my freshmen year to go, sitting out so many games and getting hurt,” said Fudd, who hit seven of her nine 3-point attempts. “This game meant a lot and hopefully I can carry it on to our next few games this week.”
This was the 25th meeting in the storied series that was renewed in 2020 after a 13-year hiatus. The teams will play again next year in Knoxville, Tennessee. This was the first time since 2007 when both teams were in the top 10.
Fudd got the start when it was announced about an hour before the game that the Huskies would be missing her classmate, Caroline Ducharme.
“The last two games we played she took a couple solid hits and she just wasn’t feeling really good yesterday and this morning when she woke up,” Auriemma said. “Precautionary, it was best to just keep her out.”
Ducharme scored in double figures in 10 of the team’s last 11 games.
Fudd, who admitted she was nervous before the game, scored the team’s first basket – a 3-pointer – and finished the opening half with nine points as UConn (15-4) built a 32-25 lead. Evina Westbrook had 11 points in the first half.
Christyn Williams, who was scoreless in the opening 20 minutes and missed all seven of her shots, helped UConn blow the game open in the third quarter. She scored the first four points to start a 14-0 run that gave the Huskies a 46-25 lead.
Nika Muhl scored the final five points of the spurt, including hitting a 3-pointer that got Auriemma to pump his fist in celebration. Auriemma returned to the bench after missing Wednesday’s game at Creighton with an illness that wasn’t related to COVID-19.
Tennessee (19-4), which has now lost three of its last four games, didn’t threaten the rest of the game. Jordan Horston scored 26 to lead the Lady Vols.
“I think the biggest thing for us is we have to go back to our Georgia game and lost Keyen Green and we haven’t recovered from that yet,” Tennessee coach Kellie Harper said. “I think right now the team is still searching and we’re not getting her back. We have to be able to step up and be mature and we have to tweak some things systematically and we got to be able to find confidence in what we’re doing.”
TURNING THE PAIGE
UConn sophomore Paige Bueckers was evaluated by doctors Sunday to determine the next steps in her rehab as she recovers from surgery on her left knee eight weeks ago that repaired an anterior tibial plateau fracture and lateral meniscus tear.
“Rehab’s going great, she looks fantastic,” Auriemma said at practice Saturday. “She’s done everything they’ve asked her to do and now we just got to take a look and see: How far has she come? What does that mean in terms of going forward?”
Tennessee: After winning 18 of their first 19 games, the Lady Vols have struggled lately dropping games to unranked Auburn and Florida as well as UConn. The Lady Vols will drop in the poll Monday.
UConn: This was UConn’s last chance to play a top opponent during the regular season. The Huskies finished 6-4 against non-conference opponents this season, avoiding their first non-winning season since 1987 against them.
Tennessee: hosts Missouri on Thursday.
UConn: hosts Villanova on Wednesday.