The Aftermath: Aaliyah Edwards can't be stopped

The senior forward has been on a dominant tear this month.

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Photo: Ian Bethune

Last season, Aaliyah Edwards provided a stabilizing force for a UConn team devastated by injuries. She held down the frontcourt when Dorka Juhász missed time with a broken thumb and helped shoulder the scoring load when Azzi Fudd went down with knee injuries.

Then February happened. Not only did the Huskies slog through the month, Edwards also stumbled. Her scoring average dropped nearly four points, she shot 15.5 percentage points worse and she grabbed 1.3 fewer rebounds per game.

One year later, Edwards has flipped the script by dominating the month of February. In UConn’s blowout win over DePaul on Sunday, she recorded her sixth double-double in seven contests with 23 points and 17 rebounds — an impressive mark considering she totaled just seven through the first 21 games. This month, Edwards has averaged a ridiculous 22.3 points and made over 60 percent of her shots. She’s also set a career-high with 33 points while reeling in 15-plus rebounds in three different contests.

“She's really locked in. We practiced the day before yesterday and I hadn't seen her that locked in in a long time,” Geno Auriemma said about Edwards after the win over Creighton last week. “I think mentally, she's in a different place.”

Edwards took over from the jump against DePaul. She had six points and six rebounds in the first quarter, already had the double-double by halftime and put up a big stat line despite playing just three minutes in the fourth. Edwards added a team-high four steals for good measure.

She was a big reason the Huskies scored exactly half of its points in the paint — 52 of 104.

UConn didn’t win big solely on the senior forward’s back, though. She got some help from Paige Bueckers, who scored 30 points on just 15 shots — including this impressive finish in the first half.

“Those two guys are the backbone of our team,” Auriemma told CBS Sports Network postgame. “So as long as those guys are going well, then we’re good to go.”

Bueckers put up her third 30-plus point performance of the season despite only hitting a single 3-pointer, too. Instead, she took a career-high 13 attempts from the line and made a career-high 11. Amid a rough shooting stretch for her standards, Bueckers found another way to get it done.

“She makes it all work for us,” Auriemma said afterwards.

It wasn’t just her scoring, either. Bueckers didn’t hurt the team — she finished with zero turnovers and zero fouls.

“She has a really quick mind but she plays at a very slow tempo. She's never rushed. She never is hurried by anything or anybody,” Auriemma said about Bueckers. “I think that lets her read every play and read every situation that she can take advantage of.”

Together, Bueckers and Edwards combined for 53 points. When they checked out for good, DePaul only had 58 points as a team. That’s a pretty good one-two punch to have.

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A prophetic performance

When Auriemma spoke to the media ahead of the game on Friday, he laid out three areas he wanted to see his team improve before the postseason. One of those points proved to be prophetic on Sunday.

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