UConn‘s women’s basketball program can’t catch a break.
That’s the way it feels yet again, as the university announced Tuesday that sophomore superstar Azzi Fudd will miss three to six weeks with a right knee injury suffered in the second quarter of Sunday’s 74-60 loss to Notre Dame.
It’s no coincidence that the Irish notched their largest win over the Huskies since 2004, because UConn needs Fudd if it’s to function as a top-10 team. In UConn’s three wins over top-10 opponents this season, Fudd played 118 of 120 possible minutes. Geno Auriemma could not take his lead guard off the floor.
With both Paige Bueckers and five-star freshman Ice Brady suffering season-ending injuries, Auriemma challenged Fudd to be the best player in the country, because that’s what she would have to be in order for UConn to reach its goals this season.
The sophomore has delivered in every way up until this setback, going for 32 points against Texas and NC State, and 24 points with four assists against Iowa. All three of those games resulted in UConn wins.
Without Fudd on the floor, scoring is going to be a challenge. Fairfield transfer Lou Lopez-Senechal will need to take on a larger scoring role, while junior point guard Nika Muhl must do some scoring of her own. Fudd is a huge reason for Muhl’s nation-leading 10.1 assists per game. What happened Sunday, with Lopez-Senechal and Muhl playing all 40 minutes against the Irish, will likely happen again in the Huskies’ upcoming marquee games.
UConn will also need to play through the post more with junior Aaliyah Edwards, who is averaging 15.7 points and 10.1 rebounds per game. She will get some help when 6-foot-5 senior forward Dorka Juhasz returns from an injury (broken thumb). Juhasz totaled 20 points, 20 rebounds and seven assists in her two games of action this season. Without Fudd, expect the Huskies to rely even more on their defense, and it will be important that Edwards and Juhasz control the paint and avoid foul trouble.
Additionally, the injury to Fudd magnifies what junior Aubrey Griffin and sophomore Caroline Ducharme are doing for the Huskies. It can’t be all Lopez-Senechal and Muhl, so others will need to rise to the occasion.
While Lopez-Senechal is scoring at a high clip, it became easier for her and all involved to make significant contributions with the amount of defensive attention Fudd has garnered.
The good news for UConn is that Fudd is expected to be back sometime between late-December and mid-January. However, her injury history — she endured a torn ACL and MCL in 2019, as well as a foot setback that sidelined her for 11 games last season — is certainly concerning.
Following a home game against Princeton on Thursday, UConn faces a challenging road test Sunday at No. 20 Maryland. The team will then have a week layoff before a matchup with Florida State on Dec. 18. The Huskies follow that with a game against a Seton Hall squad that earned a top-25 win over Marquette this past Sunday.
With Fudd, the Huskies would have been favored in all of those games, but it’s going to be hard for them to stay unscathed through the upcoming stretch. The team’s offense will be significantly more limited with an All-American missing, and no one there to replace her full complement of abilities.
Fudd’s timeline to return is going to be especially interesting to watch because of what UConn has at the end of this month. The Huskies travel to No. 18 Creighton on Dec. 28 to take on a 7-1 Bluejays squad coming off an Elite Eight run last season. That is likely the earliest Fudd could be available.
The Huskies will need a fully healthy Fudd to keep their historic streak of 14 consecutive Final Fours intact. While it’s not a worst-case scenario, it’s another bout of misfortune for a program that has been held back by some difficult injuries over the past couple of years.
Earlier this season, Auriemma said that the unique challenge of missing Bueckers and Brady has increased his energy level on the sidelines. Now, that challenge just reached a new level, and in the coming weeks, a group of quality pieces is going to have to pick up its production with Fudd joining Bueckers and Brady on the bench.
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John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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