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Story By John Murray

Photographs By Clay Johnson

UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma has had a remarkable career guiding his teams to 11 National Championships, but one could make a case that this season is one of the finest coaching performances of his 37-year career.

UConn Women’s Basketball Coach Geno Auriemma. (Photo from UConn)

UConn came into the season highly touted with the reigning National Player of the Year, Paige Bueckers, coming back for her sophomore year, and Azzi Fudd, the 2021 National High School Player of the Year coming to Storrs for her first season.

Bueckers was leading the team in scoring (21.2 ppg) through six games before she was injured and underwent a surgery that had her on the sidelines for the past three months. Fudd also went down to injury and sat out for more than half the season with a foot problem. With two of the most explosive players in country injured, the team struggled, but somehow Auriemma has led them to a 20-5 record and a #7 national ranking.

Freshman sensation Azzi Fudd is starting to heat up.

UConn went 14-1 in the Big East and captured the league title by crushing Marquette Tuesday night in Hartford. The Lady Huskies play St. John’s tonight, Azzi Fudd is playing great, and remarkably, Paige Buecker is returning to the hardcourt to play.

The team is coming together at the right time and would anyone be surprised if UConn makes another Final Four appearance and challenges undefeated South Carolina for the championship?

Geno Auriemma expects that. UConn has battled their way into 13 consecutive Final Four appearances, so with Buecker and Fudd back on the court, the sky is the limit once again.

In addition to the high voltage skills of Bueckers and Fudd, the squad has three seniors led by 5’11 guard Christyn Williams from Little Rock, Arkansas who is averaging 15 points per game. Olivia Nelson-Ododa is a 6’5″ forward from Winder, Georgia, who is averaging 10 points and seven rebounds per game, and leads the team with 41 blocked shots. Evina Westbrook is a 6’0″ guard from Salem, Oregon, and one of the team assist leaders per game.

Olivia Nelson-Ododa leads the team with 41 blocked shots.

With team-leader Bueckers on the sideline for the past three months Auriemma has leaned on the leadership of 6’5″ Dorka Juhász, a graduate student from Pecs, Hungary, who scored 22 points against DePaul on February 11th, and ripped down 16 rebounds against UCLA in early December. Before coming to UConn, Juhász had a terrific career playing at Ohio State where she twice earned All-Big-Ten honors.

When one considers the extraordinary career of Geno Auriemma; 11 NCAA Championships, 21 Final Fours, six perfect seasons and 53 conference championships, it is an unparalleled run of excellence.

He has been named the Naismith National Coach of the Year eight times, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and has coached two USA teams to gold medals in the Olympic games.

That is stunning, but what he’s coaxed out of his team this season with UConn’s top two scorers sidelined is as impressive as anything he has done. And he’s not finished yet.

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