Freshman Fudd stepping up for UConn in postseason

Published on Wednesday, 23 March 2022 19:50
Written by CARL ADAMEC

Journal Inquirer

STORRS - Azzi Fudd had a quiet confidence about her as she stepped to the foul line with 15.1 seconds left Monday night.

The UConn women’s basketball team was hanging on to a three-point lead over UCF and the guard could likely ice the Huskies’ record 28th consecutive NCAA tournament Sweet 16 bid.

The confidence extended behind the UConn bench where her mother, Katie, sat. Instead of being afraid to watch the clutch attempts, Katie Fudd had her phone out to take video of her daughter’s shots.

As her mother expected, the freshman found nothing but net. No. 2 UConn’s 52-47 win over the seventh-seeded Knights before a capacity crowd of 10,167 has it headed to Total Mortgage Arena in Bridgeport where it will take on No. 3 Indiana at 2 p.m. for a spot in the regional final.

“I thought we were very poised down the stretch as a team,” UConn guard Christyn Williams said. “We had to limit our turnovers because they were pressing the entire game.”

Williams then turned towards Fudd, who sat to the senior’s left during the postgame press conference.

“And kudos to Azzi,” she added. “She did a very good job of handling the ball in the backcourt. And just … You did. You’re a freshman, bro. You did good. So she was very poised. She might not think she was but it’s hard out there, especially as a freshman. But she was good.”

Fudd finished with 16 points, going 4-for-10 from 3-point land. Her 4-for-4 effort at the foul line put her at 90.9 percent (20 for 22) on the season.

She missed her first five shots from the floor as UConn (27-5) fell into an early seven-point hole.

“My teammates had confidence in me,” Fudd said. “When my shot wasn’t falling, they just kept telling me to shoot and kept finding me and giving me great looks.”

Her 3-pointers started and ended a 12-0 run late in the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth that gave the Huskies the lead for good and she added a pair of free throws with 6:19 left.

Fudd, who missed 11 games due to a right foot injury, chipped in three steals and two blocked shots in her 38:28 on the floor, though she was not happy with her three third-quarter turnovers that cost UConn opportunities to extend its lead.

She was key at the end as the Huskies went to a four-guard look with Dorka Juhász the lone post presence after Olivia Nelson-Ododa and Aaliyah Edwards fouled out in a 21-second span of the fourth quarter.

The Huskies have won 12 in a row since losing to Villanova on Feb. 9.

“Not just the tough games but I think the adversity we faced off the court as well has helped prepare us,” Fudd said. “You saw Liv and Aaliyah fouled out. And each time the next big was ready, Dorka was ready at the end to come in and filled that position and did what she needed and what we needed.”

Fudd is the second UConn player whose mother also played in the NCAA tournament. Katie Fudd’s only tournament appearance was, coincidentally, at Gampel Pavilion in 1996 when North Carolina State fell to Michigan State in a first-round game. She would transfer to Georgetown after the season that saw her named Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year.

Williams joined Azzi Fudd in double figures with 12 points, including a pair of free throws with 19.6 seconds to go, in her final game at Gampel Pavilion. Paige Bueckers had nine points.

“I said (to Williams), ‘You played like a senior,’ because Azzi played like a senior down the stretch but Azzi may or may not be in three more of these,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said.

“We need Christyn to complement whatever Azzi is doing from the perimeter. Paige is not Paige yet. To be able to have those two guys and know that we can get something done from both sides of the floor is important. We need more from our big guys, though.”

Top-seeded North Carolina State and No. 5 Notre Dame will play in the first regional semifinal game Saturday at 11:30 a.m. The Elite Eight game is Monday at 7 p.m.

Posted in The Bristol Press, UConn on Wednesday, 23 March 2022 19:50. Updated: Wednesday, 23 March 2022 19:52.