November 15, 2022 

Inside UConn’s top-five victory over Texas

Azzi Fudd shines — Swin Cash honored

STORRS, CT– The number 32 was trending in Storrs on Monday night. Before Texas and UConn tipped off for an early-season, top-ten match-up, the storied program retired Hall of Famer Swin Cash‘s jersey number. The number 32 now hangs alongside fellow UConn alum Rebecca Lobo and Ray Allen in Gampel Pavilion. In a poetic tribute of sorts to the Husky, WNBA and Olympic legend Swin Cash, UConn sophomore Azzi Fudd also notched a career-high 32 points. Those points, especially the 17 Fudd added in the fourth quarter, propelled No. 6 UConn to an 83-76 victory over No. 3 Texas.

The Next was in Storrs for the historic evening and gives you an inside look at this November match-up between the women’s basketball heavyweights.

Pregame

There was a buzz just before tip-off on Connecticut’s campus. It was the first day of the year that truly felt like winter in New England and a sell-out crowd trickled in from the below-freezing air outside. The UConn student section was ready for this one, heckling the visiting Longhorns each time they ran on or off the court during warm-ups.


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At about 6 PM the lights dimmed as the public address announcer asked fans to prepare for a very special event. Out walked Swin Cash with her husband and the two children, alongside UConn head coach Geno Auriemma.

Auriemma addressed the crowd first, charming a Connecticut audience that has been faithful to the UConn program that he’s led for over three decades now. Auriemma praised Cash’s contributions on and off the court and gave her mom a shoutout in the audience. He shared that Swin’s number would be retired in what he called a “magical place” alongside Lobo and Allen’s numbers; jersey number retirements for UConn basketball are reserved only for players who have been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

UConn legend Swin Cash speaks with the media on Nov. 14, 2022. Cash’s number 32 was retired into the rafters of Gampel Pavilion. (Photo Courtesy of Tee Baker)

After Auriemma, it was Swin’s turn to address her adoring fans. She shared her gratitude for the fans and gave the UConn coaching staff a shoutout. Swin is such a powerhouse of a human and highlighted her experiences on and off the court. She ended her time speaking by handing the mic over to her son Saint, who proudly proclaimed, “bleed blue,” a slogan UConn fans use to describe super fandom.

As Swin left the court, a video montage of former teammates played on the big screens, all congratulating her for the honor. Overall, it was a very special night for a very special Connecticut program.

First quarter

After the emotion of the pregame ceremony, the Longhorns came out with intensity, converting on a bucket in the first 20 seconds of gameplay. Texas was without sophomore sensation and 2022 Big 12 Freshman of the Year, Rori Harmon, who is out with a nagging injury. It was a frantic minute and a half that included quick fouls and missed free throws on both sides as each team settled in. UConn fans traditionally stand clapping until the first Husky bucket, which came from Lou Lopez Sénéchal just under the 8:30 mark. With the made three, UConn fans emphatically chanted “Louuuu” as the sell-out crowd settled in their seats.

The quarter progressed with some back-and-forth between both teams. It was a scrappy first quarter and not necessarily the prettiest basketball. The first quarter saw six lead changes between the teams and also nine turnovers (UConn with five; Texas with four). UConn was 3-8 from the charity stripe, while Texas converted on 4-8 free throw attempts.

At the end of the quarter, Aubrey Griffin led all UConn scorers with six points; DePaul transfer Sonya Morris led all Texas scorers with six points as well. Texas entered the second quarter with a slight edge, 19-18.


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Second quarter

It was more of the same to start the second quarter, with the teams more or less locked up in a tight contest. Aubrey Griffin demonstrated her versatility on the court, including converting on a Dorka Juhász steal in the early minutes of the quarter.

Griffin later shared with the media that she “didn’t have any lack of confidence” stepping into this season and worked really hard in rehab to get back on the court with her teammates. If Griffin can consistently give UConn a spark off the bench like she did last night, it bodes well for the Huskies’ season.

Texas stayed solid behind the strong play of its post players and Sonja Morris’ strong shooting. Morris would lead all scorers at the half with 13 points, including 3-7 from three.

As the quarter came to a close, the rowdy UConn student section heckled Texas coach Vic Schaefer for stepping just outside the coaching box a few times. The students also berated Texas players with a “you can’t do that” chant after every Longhorns foul.

The energy of the crowd propelled UConn to a run to end the quarter. An Azzi Fudd steal, then converted to a layup on the other with just over a minute remaining, got the crowd even more riled up, as UConn was benefitting from a late push in the quarter.

UConn sophomore Caroline Ducharme added the icing on top with the buzzer layup that put UConn up 42-37 at the break.

Third quarter

The third quarter is one that Texas head coach Vic Schaefer would prefer to forget.

“Rough third quarter, I think … I really love how we competed for the most part; we just had a bad stretch there about two minutes to go in the second quarter, let them get up [by five points]. And we just didn’t come out ready [in the third quarter],” Shaefer said postgame.

Texas freshman Amina Muhammad and sophomore Aaliyah Moore found themselves in early foul trouble, forcing Schaefer to balance playing time and with the need to keep the game within striking distance.

UConn overwhelmed the Texas offense, led by the defensive intensity of junior Nika Mühl applying full-court pressure to the Longhorns’ backcourt. Behind steady shooting from its guards, UConn would open up a 13-point lead with 0:41 remaining in the third quarter. The crowd exploded at a late Fudd three. Uconn won the quarter 21-14 and took a 63-51 lead into the fourth.

Fourth (Fudd) quarter

Simply put, Azzi Fudd balled out in the fourth. Entering the quarter with 15 points, playing more of a facilitator role at guard in the first three quarters, Fudd decided it was her time to take over.

To start the quarter, Fudd drew a foul, converted on two free throws and then delivered a gorgeous mid-range jump shot, all within the first minute of the quarter.

In the next minute, she broke some ankles with a cold behind-the-back dribble drive and a mid-range jumper. The Connecticut fans literally gasped in amazement.

As the quarter progressed, Fudd continued to have the hot hand. At around the 4:40 mark, she seemed to blow the game open; UConn took a 77-60 lead into a timeout. The UConn crowd could sense victory as some fans made their way to the exits to beat the postgame traffic.

UConn fans may have called the game prematurely, as Texas stuck around to the end. Capitalizing on some late-game defensive breakdowns from UConn, the Longhorns cut the deficit to nine, 77-68, with just under three minutes remaining.

Fudd’s shooting was too hot, though, as she would eclipse the 30-point mark, securing a career-high 32 points and a UConn victory.

In the waning moments of the game, the UConn student section started singing “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” to a Texas squad that had been handed an 83-76 defeat.

In the postgame interview, both coaches reflected on the talent and poise of sophomore guard Azzi Fudd.

“She’s a special kind of player. She has skills that the average player doesn’t have,” Coach Auriemma said in the postgame press conference.

“You have to really take your hat off to [Azzi] … She’s really good, really good — special,” Texas coach Shaefer said.

Takeaways

Monday’s game served as a good early-season test for UConn and Texas. Both teams are admittedly not at February or March strength and it showed up at times on both ends of the court.

For UConn, the strong play from Azzi Fudd and Aubrey Griffin are good signs for a young team. For Texas, staying competitive for most of the game, even without leader Rori Harmon, is a great early-season accomplishment. In the end, No. 5 UConn defeated No. 3 Texas and we will see how the polls shake out next week based on this result.

For those that have counted UConn out this season due to the injury of Paige Bueckers, Texas coach Vic Schaefer offered an astute observation.

“[UConn] is really good, y’all. It ain’t any different than any other year around here,” Schaefer said postgame.

On a night when Swin Cash’s number 32 was memorialized in the rafters of Gampel Pavilion, UConn stepped up to the occasion and showed the nation that they are still one of the best programs in the country.

The Huskies’ next test will be this Sunday, Nov. 20, versus top-ten opponent North Carolina State.

Written by Tee Baker

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