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UConn starting to finally get healthy after rough stretch

NCAA Womens Basketball: Marquette at Connecticut

Dec 31, 2022; Storrs, Connecticut, USA; UConn Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma watches from the sideline as they take on the Marquette Golden Eagles at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK -- UConn is starting to finally get healthy.

The fourth-ranked Huskies welcomed back coach Geno Auriemma and star guard Azzi Fudd on in a 30-point rout of St. John’s. The Huskies had to postpone a game a few days earlier against DePaul when they didn’t have the seven healthy scholarship players required to play the contest.

It’s been that kind of a year for UConn that has only had two players play in all 16 games this season with the others missing at least a game with an injury, illness or travel problems.

They also have missed their Hall of Fame coach for four games due to an illness he’s been dealing with for a month. He was back on the bench against St. John’s after he had missed the Huskies’ previous two games because he wasn’t feeling well. He also missed two games while sick last month. The 68-year-old coach is also grieving the death of his 91-year-old mother in early December.

“Obviously, we really missed him,” senior forward Dorka Juhasz said of Auriemma. “They did a great job while he was gone, but obviously having the whole coaching staff is amazing. It’s good to see him smiling, laughing, and I think it was a good little rest for him, I hope he rested enough and he feels great. But I mean for us, we’re just happy to have him back.”

Associate head coach Chris Dailey, who has been filling in while Auriemma has been away, said that she didn’t know for sure he was going to be back until he got on the bus for the trip to New York.

“He said he was coming on the trip, that’s when I knew,” she said. “I just wanted to make sure he was in a good place and he should come back and he was ready to come back. He assured me he was.”

Fudd missed eight games after injuring her right knee against Notre Dame on Dec. 4. She was cleared to resume basketball activities two weeks ago and had gone through warmups a few times before playing.

“I had to go into the game and just remind myself to stay aggressive,” said Fudd, who scored 14 points in 20 minutes in the 82-52 win. “I’ve been out for a while so I felt like I did a good job of kind of shaking the rust off, but I know that my reaction time and all that will get better as we keep playing.”

UConn was still missing Caroline Ducharme and Ayanna Patterson, who are in concussion protocol. Paige Bueckers (ACL tear) and freshman Ice Brady (dislocated patella) are out for the year.

“I think once we get (Caroline Ducharme) back and Ayanna in the mix it’s just going to add to what we’re working towards,” said Dailey. “So I just think everybody’s in a good place now.”

The Huskies have a busy stretch coming up with six games over 14 days and having a full roster would make that a little easier.

“We’ve tried holy water. We’ve tried sage burning. None of them seem to work,” Dailey said after a win over Xavier last week. “It’s just something we have to deal with. Whoever we have, we feel like we have enough.”