Seton Hall defeats No. 15 UConn on Ndefo’s last-second layup

Connecticut v Seton Hall
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NEWARK, N.J. – During St. Peter’s run to the Elite Eight last year, KC Ndefo gained a reputation as a tenacious rebounder and a hard-nosed defender who led the nation in blocks at 6-foot-7.

When Shaheen Holloway left St. Peter’s to coach his alma mater, Seton Hall, he brought Ndefo with him as a graduate transfer.

Fittingly, it was Ndefo who came away with a crucial rebound and winning put-back to give Holloway the biggest win of his first season as Pirates coach, as Seton Hall defeated No. 15 UConn 67-66 on Wednesday night.

“We’ve been seeing it every day since he got here,” Kadary Richmond said. “So it just becomes second nature to the rest of us that are in the locker room with him and in practice.”

Richmond had a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Ndefo had 14 points, including a last-second layup.

“I felt like I was doing a good job crashing the boards all game,” Ndefo said.

Ndefo grabbed his eighth rebound and had a follow-up layup with 1.6 seconds left. While he missed the ensuing free throw, Seton Hall (12-8, 5-4 Big East) held on to win after trailing by 17 in the first half.

“We’re starting to understand what I want. We’re starting to understand that if we defend and keep teams out of transition, we give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Holloway said.

UConn (15-5, 4-5 Big East) was without coach Dan Hurley due to COVID-19. The Huskies were trying to halt a two-loss skid, as Adama Sanogo scored 16 points and five rebounds, while Jordan Hawkins was an efficient 4-of-8 for 13 points to go along with six rebounds.

UConn jumped out to a 3-0 start and led 29-19 with just under five minutes left in the half. The Huskies would go on to lead by as many as 17 before the break, as Seton Hall trailed 40-26 after 20 minutes.

“We’re just mentally strong,” Tyrese Samuel said. “Being down 17, going into halftime, it’s like, ‘don’t worry, there’s another 20 minutes.”‘

Ndefo gave an emphatic slam of a miss from Samuel. Al-Amir Dawes then made a couple layups before his 3-pointer cut UConn’s lead to 48-40 early in the second half. When Ndefo had another dunk – this time on a fast break that Dawes assisted – UConn interim coach Luke Murray called a timeout with his team up 48-45 with 14:14 left.

“I thought I did a poor job coaching the guys in the second half, offensively in particular,” Murray said. “We talked about it at halftime. We knew that Seton Hall was gonna pick up the pressure in the second half, and we didn’t do a good job of handling it.”

COVID HITS COACH

Hurley and associate head coach Kimani Young were not on the sidelines after both tested positive for the coronavirus, the school announced early Wednesday. Neither made the trip to New Jersey on Tuesday. UConn assistant coaches Tom Moore and Murray, son of comedian Bill Murray, are in charge. Moore missed last week’s game at Marquette due to COVID.

Director of player development Mamadou Diarra and video and scouting coordinator Matthew Johnson each moved us a seat up on the bench.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Seen as a Final Four and National Championship contender just a few weeks ago, UConn has continued to tumble after falling nine spots in the latest Top 25 Poll.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: After ascending as high as No. 2 before Christmas, the Huskies have lost five of their last six.

Seton Hall: The Pirates have won four in a row. After some early season growing pains, Seton Hall appears to be figuring things out under Holloway.

UP NEXT

UConn: Hosts Butler on Sunday.

Seton Hall: Hosts No. 20 Marquette on Saturday.

UConn starting to finally get healthy after rough stretch

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — UConn is starting to finally get healthy.

The fourth-ranked Huskies welcomed back coach Geno Auriemma and star guard Azzi Fudd on in a 30-point rout of St. John’s. The Huskies had to postpone a game a few days earlier against DePaul when they didn’t have the seven healthy scholarship players required to play the contest.

It’s been that kind of a year for UConn that has only had two players play in all 16 games this season with the others missing at least a game with an injury, illness or travel problems.

They also have missed their Hall of Fame coach for four games due to an illness he’s been dealing with for a month. He was back on the bench against St. John’s after he had missed the Huskies’ previous two games because he wasn’t feeling well. He also missed two games while sick last month. The 68-year-old coach is also grieving the death of his 91-year-old mother in early December.

“Obviously, we really missed him,” senior forward Dorka Juhasz said of Auriemma. “They did a great job while he was gone, but obviously having the whole coaching staff is amazing. It’s good to see him smiling, laughing, and I think it was a good little rest for him, I hope he rested enough and he feels great. But I mean for us, we’re just happy to have him back.”

Associate head coach Chris Dailey, who has been filling in while Auriemma has been away, said that she didn’t know for sure he was going to be back until he got on the bus for the trip to New York.

“He said he was coming on the trip, that’s when I knew,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure he was in a good place and he should come back and he was ready to come back. He assured me he was.”

Fudd missed eight games after injuring her right knee against Notre Dame on Dec. 4. She was cleared to resume basketball activities two weeks ago and had gone through warmups a few times before playing.

“I had to go into the game and just remind myself to stay aggressive,” said Fudd, who scored 14 points in 20 minutes in the 82-52 win. “I’ve been out for a while so I felt like I did a good job of kind of shaking the rust off, but I know that my reaction time and all that will get better as we keep playing.”

UConn was still missing Caroline Ducharme and Ayanna Patterson, who are in concussion protocol. Paige Bueckers (ACL tear) and freshman Ice Brady (dislocated patella) are out for the year.

“I think once we get (Caroline Ducharme) back and Ayanna in the mix it’s just going to add to what we’re working towards,” said Dailey. “So I just think everybody’s in a good place now.”

The Huskies have a busy stretch coming up with six games over 14 days and having a full roster would make that a little easier.

“We’ve tried holy water. We’ve tried sage burning. None of them seem to work,” Dailey said after a win over Xavier last week. “It’s just something we have to deal with. Whoever we have, we feel like we have enough.”

UConn’s Geno Auriemma to miss 4th game this season due to illness

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma will sit out the Huskies’ game at Xavier, the fourth game he has missed this season due to illness.

The Hall of Fame coach also sat out at Butler. The school didn’t release a timetable for his return.

Associate head coach Chris Dailey, who has been at UConn with Auriemma since 1985, will take over the head coaching duties. She is 16-0 when filling in for him.

“It’s been an extremely difficult month for me, and I’ve been feeling under the weather and run down,” Auriemma said in a statement. “I thought I was ready to return, but I need a little more time. I’m going to take a step back to focus on my health and will return when I feel ready.”

His 91-year-old mother Marsiella Auriemma died on Dec. 8.

No. 5 UConn (12-2) has been beset with injuries and illness this season. Former national player of the year Paige Bueckers and freshman Ice Brady are out for the season with knee injuries. Leading scorer Azzi Fudd is expected to return shortly from a knee injury that has kept her on the bench since early December. Shooting guard Caroline Duchareme is sitting out her second consecutive game in concussion protocol.

Only three Huskies have played in every game this season.

Auriemma misses UConn’s game against Florida State

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Geno Auriemma missed No. 9 UConn’s game against Florida State on Sunday as he wasn’t feeling well after the team’s shootaround earlier in the day.

Associate head coach Chris Dailey filled in for the Hall of Famer. She’s gone 13-0 filling in for Auriemma in games he’s missed over the years.

It’s been an emotional week for the 68-year-old Auriemma. His mom passed away on Dec. 8 and the funeral was earlier this week. Marsiella Auriemma was 91 years old.

Auriemma has gone 1,156-152 in his 37 years at UConn and won 11 national championships.

No. 6 UConn star Azzi Fudd out 3-6 weeks with knee injury

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
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STORRS, Conn. — Sixth-ranked UConn’s top scorer, Azzi Fudd, is expected to be out three to six weeks because of a right knee injury she suffered during her team’s weekend loss to No. 5 Notre Dame, a university athletic spokesperson said.

The sophomore guard was injured in the first half of the game when a teammate collided into her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way.

“I think she’ll be all right,” coach Geno Auriemma said afterward.

Fudd entered the game averaging 24.0 points but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes in the team’s first loss of the season.

The athletic spokesperson didn’t specify the type of knee injury Fudd sustained.

She underwent evaluation and an MRI confirmed the injury, the spokesperson said.

The Huskies host Princeton next.

Miles, No. 7 Notre Dame women beat No. 3 UConn; Fudd hurt

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Olivia Miles had 21 points and eight rebounds for No. 7 Notre Dame, and UConn star Azzi Fudd suffered a knee injury in a collision with a teammate, as the Fighting Irish handed the third-ranked Huskies their first loss of the season, 74-60 on Sunday.

“I think she’ll be all right,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said afterwards of Fudd, who went into the day averaging 24.0 points, but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes.

Fudd exited in the final minute of the first quarter after teammate Aaliyah Edwards fell on her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way as a precaution, according to Auriemma.

Maddy Westbeld had a season-high 17 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame (7-1), which bounced back from a 74-72 loss to No. 20 Maryland three days earlier.

“I think Thursday’s loss really fueled us today,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “We learned a lot from that game. We have incredible scorers on our team, a lot of balance offensively, but it’s our defense that’s gonna win games, so that was our focus the last 48 hours. (The players) took the challenge and came out and played with heart and defensive intensity. I feel like if we can play that way, we can beat anyone in the country.”

Notre Dame shot 56% from the field while limiting the Huskies to 37%.

“We played very badly (Thursday), but we were still two points away,” Miles said, “so it’s kind of scary what we can do when we play really well.”

Led by Miles, the Irish roared to a 41-24 lead by intermission, outscoring the Huskies 30-11 over the final 11 minutes of the first half.

Miles scored 13 of Notre Dame’s 18 first-quarter points, going 6 of 7 from the field. Westbeld provided her scoring punch after averaging 5.2 points over her previous five outings.

Lou Lopez Senechal led UConn (6-1) with 21 points. Edwards added 14.

“We didn’t win the rebound battle and that hurt us,” said Auriemma, whose club was outboarded 39-26 and outscored in the paint. 46-16. “We just didn’t have enough scoring on the court and enough people playing at a real high level to get enough buckets when we needed them.”

The Huskies got as close at 49-44 at the 3:44 mark of the third quarter, but the Irish stretched their lead back to as high as 70-53 at the midway mark of the fourth period.

Notre Dame ended a seven-game head-to-head losing streak against UConn in regular-season play, prevailing for the first time since a triple-overtime decision in March 2013.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies faced a top-10 opponent for the fourth time this season, but this one was their first true road game. If Fudd’s injury doesn’t turn out to be serious, UConn ought to still have a chance to do what it’s done for decades: craft a resume that will make them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame: The Irish, coming back from that loss at the buzzer to Maryland, showed that Thursday’s outcome may just be a blip on their promising season. Notre Dame matched last season’s win over No. 3 North Carolina State for the highest-ranked team it has beaten in its third year under Ivey.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies host Princeton on Thursday before visiting Maryland next Sunday.

Notre Dame: The Irish have a couple apparent mismatches coming up as they visit Lafayette (2-7) on Thursday and host Merrimack (1-6) on Saturday.