January 10, 2024 

Aubrey Griffin’s season-ending injury forces UConn to pivot yet again

Huskies face uncertainty after loss of key veteran

An eerie quiet hung over a capacity crowd at Creighton’s DJ Sokol Arena last Wednesday, Jan. 3 as UConn graduate senior Aubrey Griffin collapsed to the floor grabbing her left knee. Following the non-contact injury, Griffin was helped off the floor and didn’t return to the game. Postgame, an exhausted-looking head coach Geno Auriemma delivered a grim prognosis.

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“The team doctor for Creighton came out and he pretty much said that the knee’s very, very unstable,” Auriemma said. “I guess we’ll know more when we do the tests [back home].”

On Wednesday, UConn Athletics confirmed what was feared to be the case: Griffin will miss the remainder of the season with an ACL tear in her left knee. She ends her season after 14 games, having averaged 9.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.4 assists in 21.9 minutes per game.

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The injury represents another significant loss for a program that has been devastated by injuries over the past three years. Bigs Jana El Alfy and Ayanna Patterson are out for the season, as is junior guard Azzi Fudd. Junior guard Caroline Ducharme is also out indefinitely with neck spasms. With Griffin out, UConn is down to just nine available players.

The loss of Griffin is a painful one for UConn. She returned for a fifth season this year and may now have played her last game as a Husky. Because she missed her entire junior season in 2021-22 and played during the COVID-19 season in 2020-21, Griffin does have an additional year of eligibility, but it’s not certain she will return next season. Her unfortunate history of injuries also includes a torn ACL before her sophomore year of high school.

Griffin is perhaps the most athletic player on UConn’s roster, and her off-the-bench spark had become a key part of the Huskies’ rotation, which was adjusted significantly after the season-ending injury to Fudd. Griffin’s length, quickness and rebounding added an important post presence to a guard-heavy team. The Huskies were finding their stride, even with so much talent sidelined. Without Griffin, Auriemma and his coaching staff must again pivot and tinker with a limited roster.

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Moving forward, 6’3 freshman Ice Brady will be expected to play more minutes to make up for the lost length of Griffin, especially against teams with more bigs. UConn will rely on Brady to pull down more rebounds than the 2.5 per game that she currently averages. Thus far this season, she has failed to consistently meet Auriemma’s expectations, and now she’ll face even more pressure to perform.

Freshman Qadence Samuels will also likely see more minutes. Her length will be relied upon to help out in the post, and she’ll have to make up for lost offense from Griffin, who averaged 9.5 points per game. Samuels shoots nearly 40% from behind the arc and has showed tremendous potential in her 12 minutes per game this season.

Griffin can’t be replaced, and her injury represents a blow to both UConn’s on-court production and the program’s morale. Like it’s had to do so many times over the past three seasons, the UConn coaching staff must find a way to adapt and move forward in spite of a heartbreaking loss.

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Written by Tee Baker

Tee has been a contributor to The Next since March Madness 2021 and is currently a contributing editor, BIG EAST beat reporter and curator of historical deep dives.

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