Northwest Missouri State women's basketball feels confident despite young roster

UConn’s Fudd, Ducharme, Edwards voted to preseason all-Big East women’s team

Oct. 18—Azzi Fudd was the Big East preseason Freshman of the Year a season ago. But a right foot injury that cost her 11 games and the outstanding play of DePaul’s Aneesah Morrow had the UConn women’s basketball team’s guard settling for a spot on the conference’s all-freshman team.

But with the graduation of guards Christyn Williams and Evina Westbrook along with the season-ending knee injury to point guard Paige Bueckers, the expectations for Fudd are once again high — from her team and from others.

Big East coaches expect her to live up to them.

Fudd was a unanimous selection to the 11-player all-conference preseason first team the Big East announced today at its media day at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Two of her teammates joined her — sophomore guard Caroline Ducharme and junior forward Aaliyah

Edwards. Graduate student center Dorka Juhász was an honorable mention selection.

UConn, which has swept the Big East regular season and tournament titles in the two years since its return to the conference, was the unanimous selection as the No. 1 team in the preseason coaches poll. Creighton, coming off March’s surprising run to the NCAA Elite Eight, was second. Villanova, which snapped the Huskies’ 169-game conference winning streak with an upset at the XL Center in February, received UConn coach Geno Auriemma’s first-place vote — coaches cannot vote for their own team — and was third.

Villanova junior Maddy Siegrist was the preseason Player of the Year after winning the 2022 postseason honor in March. UConn forward Ayanna Patterson was the preseason Freshman of the Year.

Fudd averaged 12.1 points and 2.7 rebounds in 25 games her freshman season at UConn. The 5-foot-11 former No. 1 high school recruit from Arlington, Virginia had 25 points in her first start of the season against Tennessee on Feb. 6 and a season-high 29 points against Villanova three days later. She was named to the NCAA Bridgeport Regional all-tournament team as the Huskies advanced to their 14th consecutive Final Four.

But she didn’t get the ending she wanted as UConn fell to South Carolina in the national championship game, nor was it the season she wanted.

“I was not myself at all last year,” Fudd said last month. “There were spurts where I would show my old self or what I am capable of, but I was mostly a shooter last year, and I am capable of so much more.

“This season I’m excited to show more, but not just to show everyone else that, but kind of to show myself that I’m moving so much better and feeling so much better. I’m excited that I will be able to move and play the way I can again.”

There is more of a sense of urgency with the injury to Bueckers.

Fudd sees it as an opportunity.

“She has taken the reins a little bit,” Auriemma said Friday. “She is one of the ones we’ve said there is going to be a lot on her. When you’re that good of a player, you should expect that there is going to be a lot asked of you. She’s handling it great . She wants that. She is very hard on herself. She wants to be that person that can have that kind of impact, and not just shooting the ball either but in a lot of ways. Every time you get a shot, shoot it. Every time you get a chance try to score. At the same time, that opens up the floor for everybody else. She attracts a lot of attention. So we’re trying to take a lot of the guesswork out of it for her, ‘ What do I do and how do I do this?’ It has worked out great. I’m really, really happy with where she is right now.”

Ducharme joined Fudd on the all-freshman team last season and was named to the all-Big East second team. The 6-2 guard from Milton, Massachusetts averaged 9.8 points and 3.2 rebounds in 31 games as a freshman for the Huskies. She had a season-high 28 points in a win at St. John’s on Jan. 23 and followed up three days later by a game-winning drive with 1.6 seconds left that lifted UConn past DePaul in Chicago.

Edwards is coming off an up-and-down sophomore season that saw the 6-3 forward from Kingston, Ontario, Canada average 7.9 points and 5.1 rebounds, though she played her best during the Huskies’ postseason run.

Juhász, 6-5 from Pecs, Hungary, averaged 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in her first season at UConn after transferring from Ohio State.

Patterson, a 6-2 forward from Fort Wayne, Indiana, was the No. 4 high school recruit in the Class of 2022 and was named a McDonald’s All-American after averaging 25.8 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks a senior at Homestead High. She was named Indiana Miss Basketball.

UConn begins its 20-game Big East regular-season schedule against Providence on Dec. 2 at Gampel Pavilion.

For coverage of all sports in the JI’s 18-town coverage area, plus updates on the UConn women’s basketball team and head coach Geno Auriemma, follow Carl Adamec on Twitter: @CarlAdamec, Facebook: Carl Adamec, and Instagram: @CarlAdamec.

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