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UConn’s Paige Bueckers cleared, expected to play Friday

Louisville v Connecticut

UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT - DECEMBER 19: Paige Bueckers #5 of the Connecticut Huskies watches the teams warm up before the game against the Louisville Cardinals in the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena on December 19, 2021 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)

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STORRS, Conn. - UConn star guard Paige Bueckers, who has been sidelined since early December with a left knee injury, was cleared to return on Thursday.

The reigning national player of the year will suit up Friday for the seventh-ranked Huskies (20-5, 14-1 Big East) when they host St. John’s (11-16, 7-10) at the XL Center in Hartford, the school said.

Bueckers went down in the closing seconds of UConn’s win over Notre Dame on Dec. 5, suffering a tibial plateau fracture and a meniscus tear in her left knee. She had surgery a week later.

The sophomore averaged 21.2 points, 6.2 assists and 5.5 rebounds in the six games she played before the injury.

She was in uniform Wednesday night but remained on the bench as the Huskies beat Marquette 69-38 to secure the Big East regular-season title.

After the game, coach Geno Auriemma said he was not sure how long it would take Bueckers to get back into top condition and how much or when in games he would be able to use her in the meantime.

“I don’t think whatever decision is ultimately made is going to be a bad one,” he said. “If Paige is playing, then the rest will take care of itself.”

UConn will close the regular season on Sunday against Providence and will be the top seed at Big East Tournament, which begins at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville on March 4.