The Aftermath: A disappointment in front of the stars

Playing in front of numerous program legends, the current Huskies learned how far they have to go.

Photo: Ian Bethune

On a night when Gampel Pavilion was filled with program legends, UConn women’s basketball came up short against its longtime rival, falling to No. 15 Notre Dame, 82-67.

One cannot overstate the immense star power in Storrs that evening. Breanna Stewart and Diana Taurasi were the headliners, but dozens of players from multiple championship teams were in attendance for the game and a pre-game reception at the Werth Champions Center.

“It was pretty emotional when they were playing the video, especially of the 2003 and [2004] teams,” head coach Geno Auriemma said after the game. “Some of these players I haven’t seen in 10-12 years. It was an emotional weekend. The connections that they have with each other, that they have with this program, are pretty unique.”

The presence of Stef Dolson, Ann Strother, Moriah Jefferson, Kelly Faris, Saniya Chong, Kiah Stokes, Jessica Moore, Caroline Doty, Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis, and many others ensured it was a special night. Sue Bird even made a surprise appearance alongside Ted Lasso star Jason Sudeikis. During a pre-game ceremony, Gampel’s video screen played a highlight video of the 2003, 2004, 2013, and 2014 championship teams that were being honored that night.

Photo: Twitter/X - @UConnWBB

While Aaliyah Edwards dominated in the paint, finishing with 23 points and seven rebounds, she was the only bright spot for the Huskies. Paige Bueckers struggled with her shot, going 5-of-17 from the field, and Nika Mühl dealt with foul trouble that limited her to 19 minutes.

“I thought we had it all figured out,” Auriemma said. “It broke down an awful lot when Nika wasn’t in the game, it hurt us on both ends.”

Freshmen Ashlynn Shade and KK Arnold looked great in the first half, combining for 16 of the Huskies’ 35 points in the first 20 minutes. But the two were held to just seven points in the second half. Shade played all 40 minutes while Arnold played 39.

“We probably should have relied more on KK and Ash,” Auriemma said. “We tried really hard to get Paige going, and maybe we should’ve, in hindsight, gotten more from Ash…these things come up in games and you look at ‘em and go forward.”

Beyond the aforementioned five players, just two reserves saw action on the night. Ice Brady played 17 minutes and scored four points (1-5 FG) and Qadence Samuels played seven minutes.

“We probably should’ve gone to [Edwards] more. Her and Paige really had a two-man game going there at the start of the third quarter,” Auriemma said.

The final score makes the game appear more lopsided than it was for the majority of the contest. UConn was in control or competitive until really dropping the ball in the fourth quarter.

The Huskies were up seven after the first quarter but they lost the second quarter by 16 points. After getting six points back in the third quarter, they were outscored 22-10 in the final 10 minutes.

“We were searching all night for offensive identity,” Auriemma said. “We didn’t have one tonight.”

Of course, we have to make the requisite injury statement. Without Azzi Fudd, Caroline Ducharme, and Aubrey Griffin, this is all a lot harder than it should be. But the show must go on.

Auriemma said these are the kind of nights “when other people have to step up and make more shots. But the offense bogged down too much for the first time in about a month and a half.”

Notre Dame’s leaders stood strong

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