No. 11 UConn Women Prepare For Sundays Return Vs. Creighton With Depleted Roster

The last update from UConn women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma came on Dec. 19 following the Huskies' loss to Louisville in the Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Showcase at Mohegan Sun Arena. That day Auriemma used seven players in the team's 69-64 defeat.

On Friday, 19 days later, not much changed personnel-wise, as Auriemma said UConn will have "six-and-a-half" players available for Sunday's Big East Conference game against Creighton at Gampel Pavilion (1 p.m., SNY), a season reboot of sorts.

The Huskies had their last four games postponed due to COVID-19-related issues, with four members of the UConn team dealing with the virus, Auriemma said. The minimum number of players to compete, per Big East rules, is seven.

No. 11 UConn (6-3, 1-0) will dress eight players Sunday: Aaliyah Edwards, Nika Muhl, Christyn Williams, Dorka Juhasz, Olivia Nelson-Ododa, Evina Westbrook, Caroline Ducharme and Amari DeBerry. Auriemma said, though, that Muhl, returning from a foot injury, will be limited to 15 minutes and that DeBerry is "not ready to go."

"You go into the game and you try to use all your timeouts as best you can," Auriemma said in a Zoom conference with the media Friday. "You try to rotate people as best you can. Getting Nika back for even 15 minutes is a great opportunity because now we can rest one of the other perimeter players. There is no magical formula you can use to say, 'This is how you deal with this.' It's just one of those things."

UConn's depleted roster is the result of four key injuries, including that of 2021 National Player of the Year Paige Bueckers, the Huskies' dynamic sophomore point guard.

Bueckers suffered a tibial plateau fracture in her left leg in the closing moments of UConn's win over Notre Dame on Dec. 5. She underwent surgery on Dec. 13 and is expected to miss eight weeks from the date of the surgery. She was joined on the injured list by Muhl (foot), former national high school player of the year Azzi Fudd (foot) and junior Aubrey Griffin.

Auriemma said Friday that Fudd hasn't yet started running, but believes she will by next week. He said that Griffin is dealing with a disk problem in her back and that he doesn't expect her to return this season.

Auriemma said that Bueckers' rehab is going as planned.

"She feels good, she looks good," he said. "She obviously is, as you can imagine, disappointed that she's got to miss all this time. She's probably the only one happy that those games were all postponed. Everyone in the Big East that's asked me, 'When do you ever think we'll make those games up?' I'm pushing for, like, Feb. 18, 19, 20 (when Bueckers returns). We'll play seven days in a row or something like that."

Added Auriemma:

"When we left after our game on the 19th, we thought we would be able to get back to practice on the 26th. That obviously didn't happen the way we expected it to be. Between our injuries and between COVID, very rarely have we had more than five or six players available at practice. ... Because of that, you're obviously limited in what you can do. You're not quite sure as a coach how much you should do.

"It's a really challenging situation and then not to be able to play for 20 days or whatever it is, you're going into Sunday's game almost like it's the beginning of the season, almost like it's the first game of the season. That's about what it feels like for us right now."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

Source : https://www.theday.com/uconn-sports/20220107/no-11-uconn-women-prepare-for-sundays-return-vs-creighton-with-depleted-roster

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