The moments that made UConn's 2022-23 season

Some early highs were followed by an avalanche of lows.

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The moments that made UConn's 2022-23 season

This past season, two streaks that came to define UConn women’s basketball’s success over the last 25+ years came to an end: The Huskies dropped back-to-back games for the first time since 1993 and missed the Final Four after making the previous 14.

UConn fought through another injury-plagued season — one that even affected the coaching staff — and went through the program’s worst stretch of play in recent memory. Whereas last year’s team rallied in the NCAA Tournament, this one reached its breaking point in the Sweet Sixteen and fell apart.

Apr. 23: Lou Lopez Sénéchal commits from Fairfield

On a Saturday in April, little-known Fairfield star Lou Lopez Sénéchal chose UConn as the destination for her final season of collegiate eligibility. At the time, it appeared to be little more than a depth move for the Huskies. There were legitimate questions about whether Lopez Sénéchal could make the leap from the low-major level to UConn.

As it turned out, she arguably became the team’s most important player. It’s hard to imagine what the Huskies would’ve looked like without her.

Aug. 3: Paige Bueckers’ torn ACL becomes public

The complexion of the entire women’s college basketball landscape changed in a split second on the first day of August when Paige Bueckers tore her ACL in a pick-up game. Two days later, UConn revealed the heart-wrenching news, immediately up-ending the outlook on the team’s season.

A month later, Bueckers made the best of the situation by declaring herself “Coach P” and also revealed that she’d return for her fourth season in Storrs despite being eligible for the WNBA Draft.

While the Huskies made their best effort to get past it, Bueckers’ injury hung over the team all season long.

Oct. 21: Ice Brady dislocates patella in right knee

The injury bug continued to bite when Ice Brady dislocated the patella in her right knee, knocking her out for the season as well. The freshman forward had drawn rave reviews during the preseason and was projected to be a key piece of the frontcourt rotation. Without her, UConn didn’t have a consistent third option in the post behind Dorka Juhász and Aaliyah Edwards.

Nov. 14, 20: UConn racks up two impressive non-conference wins

Aside from the opener vs. Northeastern, which was closer to an exhibition than a real non-conference test, UConn’s early schedule was a gauntlet. In their second game, the Huskies welcomed Texas and six days later, they hosted NC State.

UConn proved to be ready for the challenge. Azzi Fudd set a career-high in the win over Texas with 32 points, then tied that mark in the blowout victory against NC State. Nika Mühl also made history against the Wolfpack, dishing out 15 assists — a single-game program record.

Even without Bueckers (or Brady), the Huskies looked like one of the most dangerous teams in the nation.

Thanksgiving Weekend: UConn wins PK85

After a pair of relatively comfortable wins, UConn’s toughness was tested out in Portland at the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament. The Huskies earned a hard-fought win over Duke in the first game then erased an 11-point deficit in the second half against Iowa to claim the hardware.

UConn’s performances in the Pacific Northwest reinforced its status as one of the top teams in the nation.

Dec. 4: Azzi Fudd goes down

For the second year in a row, the Huskies’ hopes and dreams came crashing down against Notre Dame. After Bueckers suffered her initial knee injury against the Fighting Irish in 2021, Fudd went down with a right knee injury after Aaliyah Edwards was pushed into her leg.

UConn struggled without her and lost, 74-60. A few days later, the team announced that Fudd would miss 3-6 weeks.

Dec. 8: More injuries hit

Already without Bueckers, Brady, Juhász (who broke her thumb vs. Texas) and now Fudd, UConn lost two more key players when Nika Mühl (concussion) and Lopez Sénéchal (foot) exited vs. Princeton with injuries. With UConn down to the bottom of its backcourt depth chart, the Tigers charged back from 15 down to get within two in the fourth quarter.

Despite being shorthanded, the Huskies did just enough to survive thanks to an unlikely hero: Freshman Inês Bettencourt, who sealed the win from the free throw line.

Dec. 18: Geno gets sick

UConn’s health problems extended beyond the roster. Prior to the NC State game, associate head coach Chris Dailey collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Then, head coach Geno Auriemma came down with flu-like symptoms during a shootaround ahead of the matchup with Florida State and did not coach. He missed one more game, returned for a pair of contests in late December, then stepped away in early January to focus on his health.

Jan. 11, 15: Azzi Fudd makes brief returns, then gets hurt again

For a moment, UConn’s luck appeared to turn around when both Auriemma and Fudd returned on Jan. 11 at St. John’s. The good feelings didn’t last, though: One game later, Fudd hurt her right knee again and missed the rest of the regular season.

Feb. 5: Optimism hits all-time high in loss to South Carolina

Rarely has UConn felt so good after a loss. The Huskies put up a good fight in an 81-77 loss to South Carolina at the XL Center — they just didn’t have enough firepower.

“I (already) felt great about my team,” Auriemma said, “but I feel really good about them right now.”

“We know we’ll face them again and we’ll get the win,” Lopez Sénéchal said.

Feb. 8: The back-to-back streak dies

After 1,083 games without back-to-back losses, UConn’s streak finally went down at Marquette. Following the emotional contest against South Carolina, the Huskies never showed up and were deservedly beaten by the Golden Eagles, 59-52.

“I think mentally — all of us, no one in particular — I think we just checked out,” Auriemma said afterward. “I told the team I'm surprised that it's taken this long for us to have that kind of mental checkout. It’s the first time all year in 20-something games that's happened, and tonight happened to be that night against the wrong team.”

The rest of February: UConn falls into a deep funk

The performance at Marquette proved to be a preview of the month to come. Throughout the rest of February, UConn played some of its worst basketball in recent memory. The final six games of the regular season were all decided by single-digits, including a loss at home to St. John’s and a near-defeat against a bad DePaul team on the road.

The Huskies didn’t just look vulnerable. They looked like a broken team.

Feb. 27: Nika Mühl breaks the program’s single-season assist record

A lone bright spot down the stretch came in the regular season finale when Mühl dished out her 232nd assist of the campaign, breaking the program record previously set by Sue Bird in 2001-02. Mühl finished the season with 284 assists.

That same night: Geno goes off

On senior night at Gampel Pavilion, UConn only beat Xavier — a team that failed to win a single conference game — by nine. In the postgame press conference, Auriemma went off on his team.

“It’s time we stopped blaming the injuries, stop blaming fatigue, stop blaming tired,” he said. “We are where we are.”

“There’s a reason why the last 10 games have been the way they’ve been and it has nothing to do with fatigue. We used that long enough. That story’s sailed,” the coach added. “Now, it’s just being held accountable for doing what you’re being coached to do, not what you feel like doing. Not what feels right for you at the moment.

“We don’t think very well. We don’t speak on defense. We don’t communicate. That’s got nothing to do with tired or being injured. That has to do with a lot of selfishness and a lot of you don’t want to change. This is who you are and you don’t want to change.”

Later on, Auriemma admitted his comments were essentially a motivational ploy. They worked.

First weekend of March: Azzi Fudd returns, UConn cruises through Big East Tournament

As the postseason began, it didn’t take long for the “UConn of March” to arrive. With Fudd back in the lineup, the Huskies blew out Georgetown and Marquette in the first two rounds of the Big East Tournament by an average of 29.5 points — especially impressive considering its final 10 regular season games were decided by a total of 30 points. In the championship, UConn comfortably handled Villanova for a third time to lift the trophy.

Mar. 15: Aaliyah Edwards earns All-American honors

With Bueckers out for the year and Fudd missing all but 15 games, Edwards transformed into the star UConn needed. She played in every game, collected 14 double-doubles, and led the team in scoring. As Edwards went, so did the Huskies in 2022-23.

On March 15, Edwards received All-American status, landing on both the AP and USBWA’s Third Teams. After a disappointing sophomore campaign, the honor represented the culmination of all of Edwards’ work to improve into one of the top bigs in the nation.

Mar. 25: Ohio State stuns UConn in Sweet Sixteen

For the first time since 2007, UConn failed to reach to the Final Four. In fact, the team didn’t even get to the Elite Eight.

Instead, the Huskies’ season came to an end at the hands of Ohio State in the Sweet Sixteen. The Buckeyes’ press defense gave UConn fits and helped force 18 turnovers in the first half and 25 overall. In the second quarter, the Huskies failed to even attempt a shot for the first 4.5 minutes and were outscored by Ohio State 21-9.

Despite only facing a deficit of 10 at the half, UConn couldn’t mount a serious comeback bid and fell 73-61.

After all the Huskies had been through during the season, they deserved a better fate than being the team that broke the Final Four streak. Ultimately, the sport showed how cruel it can be sometimes.

Still, UConn’s season should be remembered for Lopez Sénéchal’s ascent into stardom — and eventually, the fifth overall pick in the WNBA Draft — Mühl’s record-setting performances and the constant responses to adversity. If nothing else, it was a memorable year, even if it ended earlier than any other over the last 18 years.

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