UConn’s Azzi Fudd scores 14 in return from 8-game absence

ELMONT, N.Y. — Sophomore Azzi Fudd returned for No. 4-ranked UConn on Wednesday night against St. John’s after missing the previous eight games with a right knee injury.

Fudd scored 14 points in her first game in a month and grabbed three rebounds as the Huskies won in an 82-52 rout at UBS Arena. She shot 6 of 11 and hit 2 of 4 from beyond the arc. 

Fudd played 20 minutes and said that unlike last year when she came back from a foot injury quickly, she wanted to make sure her knee was fully healthy before playing.

“The knee I feel like it’s a lot more serious than my foot last year,” Fudd said. “I didn’t have any prep time before I came back [last year]. Wanted to make sure I was ready.”

Fudd had an expected recovery timeline of three to six weeks after suffering the injury Dec. 4 in the first quarter against  Notre Dame. UConn went 7-1 in her absence, losing to Maryland and also falling to the Irish when she was unable to play in the second half.

The 5-foot-11 guard led the team in scoring to start the season, averaging 20.6 points on 53.3% shooting (42.6% from 3) and was an early candidate for national player of the year.

Fudd, who had been cleared to resume playing about two weeks ago, checked into Wednesday’s game midway through the first quarter and made an immediate impact as the Huskies built a 17-11 lead by the end of the period. They blew the game open in the second, outscoring the Red Storm 24-9 to go up by 21 at the half.

“It’s been a progression. She’s looked really good and a matter of feeling more comfortable and she’s done that,” said UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey, who filled in for Geno Auriemma in the postgame media session. “We thought today was going to be the day.”

The Huskies have been decimated by injuries since the preseason, when 2020-21 national player of the year Paige Bueckers and freshman Ice Brady were ruled out for the 2022-23 campaign with an ACL tear and a dislocated patella, respectively.

All but two players on the roster have missed a game with an injury, illness or travel issue.

Junior Aaliyah Edwards suffered an ankle injury and freshman Ayanna Patterson suffered a concussion last week against Xavier, resulting in the Huskies not having the required seven players to play Sunday against DePaul and forcing the Big East to postpone the game.

While UConn got back Edwards on Wednesday, sophomore Caroline Ducharme and Patterson remain in the concussion protocol.

Auriemma was also back on the bench Wednesday after missing the Huskies’ previous two games because he wasn’t feeling well. He also missed two games while sick in December. The 68-year-old Hall of Famer is also grieving the death of his 91-year-old mother in early December.

“He said he was coming on the trip, that’s when I knew,” Dailey 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.”

Lou Lopez Senechal scored 20 points, making eight of her nine shots to lead the Huskies against the Red Storm. Dorka Juhasz added 18 points and 10 rebounds. Edwards finished with 15 points.

“Obviously always a difficult game when you’re playing a team of this nature,” St. John’s coach Joe Tartamella said. “I was pleased with the way we competed. We had a couple stretches where we played with a lot more energy than we played all year, specifically in the third.”

It was the first women’s basketball game played at UBS Arena, home to the NHL’s New York Islanders. There was a men’s basketball game between Notre Dame and Saint Bonaventure in November.

UConn was set to play Seton Hall on Jan. 19, but with the DePaul game’s new date of Jan. 23, the Huskies moved up the game at the Pirates by two days. Had it not, UConn would have had a stretch of five games in 10 days. The Huskies host Georgetown on Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.