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The Aftermath: Edwards, Bueckers lead UConn to tough win over St. John's

The two combined to score 59 -- including 18 of 19 UConn points in the fourth quarter.

Photo: Ian Bethune

In Aaliyah Edwards’ 125th career game, the senior managed a career scoring high while crossing the 30-point mark for the first time. She dominated St. John’s to the tune of 33 points on 12-20 shooting and 13 rebounds while going to the foul line 12 times in the 78-63 victory.

The only player on the floor who could stop Edwards was herself — and she did for a stretch.

Edwards nearly set her career-high in scoring in the third quarter. She recorded her 27th point with 2:40 left in the period which left plenty of time to set the new personal record. But then she missed her next five shots — including a couple of bunnies — as well as a pair of free throws and also failed to reel in a back-door pass from Paige Bueckers.

It took Edwards until 4:39 remained in the fourth to set the career-high, then she needed another 44 seconds to get over 30 points.

That rough stretch is where Bueckers came up big. While Edwards thrived early, Bueckers got off to a slow start — at least for her standards. She had 10 points at halftime but also turned the ball over four times while also committing a pair of fouls that landed her on the bench just before the break.

Even in the third quarter, Bueckers struggled to put her usual stamp on the game with just five points and no assists in the period. But when St. John’s opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back baskets to cut the lead down to seven, Bueckers took over.

Out of a timeout to stem the bleeding, Bueckers scored seven straight points to double the advantage in just 91 seconds. When the Red Storm rallied to back within single digits, she followed up a jumper from Edwards with two big free throws.

Edwards carried the load when Bueckers struggled early. When Edwards faltered later on, Bueckers picked up the slack.

“Aaliyah carried us for the majority of the game and then in the fourth quarter, she helped me get open and make some plays,” Bueckers explained postgame.

Bueckers ultimately scored 11 of her 26 points in the final period. Together with Edwards, they combined for 18 of UConn’s 19 points in the fourth and 59 of the team’s 78 points overall.

“Our two seniors responded the way two All-Americans should respond,” Auriemma said of the tandem. “The two of them were really good.”

Bueckers added five rebounds and three assists while Edwards grabbed 13 rebounds and a season-high four steals. The latter particularly impressed Geno Auriemma.

“The [steals] she got late in the game were really impactful,” Auriemma said. “She didn't get a breather. She didn't come out of the game and that's a lot to ask. And yet she was terrific at both ends. She got to the free-throw line a lot. She rebounded a lot. She made some mid-range jump shots. That's, to me, a complete game.”

More on Edwards’ day

Edwards on her performance: “It's that time of the season where you lock in and really hone in on what we need to execute.”

Bueckers on Edwards: “There's not anything on the floor she can’t do… I know she's not naturally a center but the way she's embraced that role and took it and just ran with it, I feel like anytime we get her the ball in the paint, she's gonna score or draw a foul. Also, what she does with the ball in her hands on the outside perimeter, getting guys open, hitting people on the back doors and just reading the game. Obviously, you've seen her grow in her 15-foot jump shot, having confidence in that when teams want to play her for the paint, her just being confident and hitting that jump shot. So I mean, she does it all.”

Auriemma on Edwards: “She is having an All-American type season… How much does scoring points really matter anymore? It's lost its value. But how you score them, when you score them, what you mean to your team (matters). I’d like to see how many other big kids around the country have the responsibility that Aaliyah has on our team given who we're missing. So for her, what she's doing is even more impressive because if she had three other post players that we rotated in and out, and she got that breather here and there — but she doesn't. She doesn't get to do that. I think that's why she's deserving of being an All-American.”

(Another) Standout defensive effort from Nika Mühl

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