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FutureStarrAzzi Fudd Hits Trifecta of Triples to Power UConn's Second-Hand Surge
Azzi Fudd's eyes and lips take on a certain look when she catches a ball. It begins with her eyebrows sinking slightly lower.
She exudes confidence as she prepares to attack, take the shot and go for it. That kind of player is what college coaches strive for - she embodies everything they expect from their players.
After a month of close games and multiple losses in February, UConn started the most crucial month of their season by opening the Big East Tournament quarterfinals with an emphatic victory. Led by Azzi Fudd's return, the top-seeded Huskies knocked off No. 9 seed Georgetown 69-39 at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday.
UConn's win against a team that had made eight consecutive Final Fours was significant; with only some key players back from last year's injuries (Nika Muhl and Paige Bueckers), this victory gave them hope that their depth would be showcased again in this game. With Nika Muhl, Paige Bueckers and Caroline Ducharme all back, there were signs that UConn may finally be starting to gel as a unit.
At the start of the second half, however, UConn had yet to find their groove. After making just 1 of 11 shots from the field in five minutes (including missing their initial three attempts from deep), they did not score again until Azzi Fudd drilled a triple from the corner with just over three minutes left before intermission; taking a 24-20 lead into halftime.
Once the third quarter began, however, things took an entirely different turn. UConn limited Iowa to just one field goal in the opening 3.5 minutes of play and went on a 16-0 run to end the first and take control of the game with a 35-12 advantage heading into the second.
Azzi Fudd drained two more 3-pointers to extend her team's lead to 56-23, making 3 of 6 from the field. In the fourth, Iowa could only muster two more field goals as the Huskies maintained their cushion.
At that point, it became evident that the team needed to find a way to shake off their defensive slump and boost offense. And with minimal effort, they managed to do just that.
The Huskies took control of the second quarter and outscored the Hoyas 20-8 in the fourth. Aaliyah Edwards (29 points and 13 rebounds) was a major factor in that surge.
Lou Lopez Senechal, a freshman who had to miss seven games last year due to an injury, hit two clutch triples and had an outstanding game all around. It's an indication of what the future holds for this team; being able to score when necessary against some of America's top teams will be key for them going forward.
It's a sign that the team has found its groove again, and it marks an exciting beginning to what promises to be an historic season. Furthermore, it demonstrates how deep this team's roster is; any other team facing them in the NCAA Tournament will find it difficult to catch up.
In the second half, UConn took command and cruised to an 86-79 victory against Iowa. It marked their first win against a top-10 team since defeating South Carolina in last year's national championship game, while also extending their unbeaten streak to an unprecedented 18 games.
The Huskies ignited the second-half surge with Azzi Fudd's two 3-pointers in four minutes, as she scored 18 points to lead the charge. Her final three came with 4.3 seconds left in the second quarter to put UConn up 54-24.
There's no better player in the nation when it comes to making long range shots. Her consistency and knack for finding open shots have made her a major asset to UConn's offense this season.
After missing the final 11 games of the season with a knee injury, she is back and her impact is beginning to be felt. Averaging 20.6 points and shooting 53.4 percent in her last eight games, she has been an integral factor in why UConn hasn't lost a game since January 1.
Before the season began, Geno Auriemma told CBS Sports he anticipated Fudd to play a larger role in Bueckers' absence. He noted that for her to provide the kind of scoring UConn needs, she needed to be both similar to Bueckers and completely herself.
She's an ideal fit for the Huskies' system, possessing the ability to read defenses and alter course quickly. She can counter pressure well, shifting coverages rapidly when necessary to create space for others when required.
Azzi Fudd is one of the top players in the country when it comes to executing her offense, and she continues to improve each time on the floor. Auriemma credits Azzi Fudd with developing self-trust as well as trusting her teammates - an integral factor in UConn's success this season.
Her progress has been achieved through hard work and patience, but there is still much work to do before she reaches the level her parents and coach wish her to be.
That includes accepting her own discomfort and learning to trust herself - something she has worked on throughout her freshman year. While there is still work to be done, signs are already emerging that she's becoming a stronger, more assured player.
UConn is on track for a 28-5 and 18-2 record in conference play this year, and looks set to finish strong in the Big East tournament. Additionally, they have an excellent chance of reaching another national championship game this season.
Her success has also given the Huskies more depth and energy on the court. UConn boasts eight players who can fill in at various positions, so they don't need to rely solely on one person during tough stretches of games.
On Sunday, Azzi Fudd hit three of her five three-pointers in the second half to lead UConn to an 86-79 victory against Iowa. She scored 22 of her 24 points after the first half, as the Huskies (3-0) maintained their unbeaten streak after two games this season.
The 6-foot-11 sophomore had been sidelined since her right knee was injured during a loss to Georgetown on Jan. 15 and was declared eligible for the top-seeded Huskies' quarterfinal game against No. 9 seed Georgetown on Saturday afternoon.
Fudd has missed some time this season, but she remains an integral part of the Huskies' offense. On average, she scores 25.6 points, assists three times and steals two times per game for a team-leading total.
She's shooting 53.2 percent from the floor, 40.5 percent from 3-point range and an impressive 11 of 11 from the free-throw line. Additionally, Fudd averages more than 31 minutes of play each game despite dealing with injury issues like Fudd's.
In her second game back from injury, she played 12 minutes off the bench against Georgetown and recorded three points, two rebounds and one block - marking the first game this season in which she has played more than 20 minutes.
Her previous two games saw her average 24 points and shoot 53.4% from the floor, including 43.4% from three-point range, in her rookie season. It's unlikely she'll get to play as much as she did then, but Geno Auriemma and his staff have taken note of her 15-minute output during those two outings.
After scoring just eight points in the first half, Fudd found her groove in the second. She scored 22 of her 24 points after that and Washington outscored Iowa 57-45 in the final frame for a commanding victory.
Fudd's performance was exactly what she needed at this stage in her career. She's making headlines and proving she can deliver at the highest level.
She's revived her team's relevance at just the right time - even without their star player, Paige Bueckers, who is still recovering from a torn ACL.
If you're searching for motivation in your own life, Azzi Fudd is the perfect role model. She's fulfilling the promise of her freshman season at a time when everyone could use some guidance from someone like her.
When the Huskies planned their schedule this season, they knew they'd face some stiff competition this season. Their top-ranked opponents include Texas, NC State, Duke and Notre Dame as well as several lower-seeded teams. That means the Huskies may need a big performance from their star guard in November to maintain their status as the best team in America.