Courtside Report: Bueckers returns – UConn crushes St. John’s

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Izabella McKenna

A heavy hush fell over the crowd at the XL Center on Friday, February 25th, 2022 as the UConn women’s basketball team and the St. John’s women’s basketball team stood in a straight line for the National Anthem. All together the crowd started to sing. Making it an amazing welcome to the basketball game. 

This was the first game in the 2022 season that Paige Bueckers had played since her knee injury making her miss out and watch her team on the sidelines for 19 games. Fans of UConn watched desperately as the Huskies dominated their game against St. John’s. 

A fan of Paige Bueckers and future UConn Huskies athlete herself, 10-year-old, Tayson said, 

“I’m so happy that Paige Bueckers came back. I flew all the way here from Minnesota to watch this game because I wanted to watch the game that Paige Bueckers would make a come back in.” 

The Huskies had hot offense from the start of the game until the very end of it, making their first six shots in the first quarter of the game. Finishing off-tier first run with an exhilarating 17-0 score before St. John’s could even get the ball. UConn’s very own Azzi Fudd paved the way from the very beginning, making eight of UConn’s 17 points. Fudd finished the quarter with 13 points, including three triples. Ending the first quarter with a 30-8 point score. 

Paige Bueckers made her big return late during the first quarter and it didn’t take long for her to make an impact. Bueckers’ first bucket after being out for 19 games was a buzzer-beater at the very end of the first quarter. Buecker’s return and standing first basket cause the entire stadium to erupt in cheers of joy and happiness for the beloved player’s return. 

UConn Huskies fan-favorite number 5 on the women’s basketball team, Paige Bueckers said, 

“I’ve never been happier to be on a minutes restriction, Just to see my name in a box score with minutes next to it is surreal to me, amazing, just to be back in this position. I’m just grateful for everything that I have.”

Paige Bueckers also said, “The first basket, it wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t something extra, So, I don’t know, it was a lot of fun.”

Aaliyah Edwards had a strong first half, finishing with 12 points. She also got six rebounds and two assists. Evina Westbrook was one of only two Huskies to not get in on the first half scoring effort but she still served five assists.

Edwards kept UConn rolling in the second half with the steal and the score to open up the action. Everything seemed to go right for the Huskies on the offensive end. UConn was up by 50 heading into the final 10 minutes.

Bueckers’ time on the court ended in the third. She played 12 minutes in her first game back from her knee injury and added 8 points to the finishing score of 93-38. 

UConn Huskies women’s basketball coach, Geno Auriemma said,  

“I was planning on (playing her) 15 (minutes) and it ended up being 12,” After the game Auriemma said. “And she let me know about it too so I owe her three minutes. … She’s excited, ecstatic, and beaming that she’s back to basketball and it was in a game that was a fun game to play in for the most part.”

During halftime, UConn’s dance team performed and the band played causing the crowd to cheer and clap. After the girl’s dance team finished their performance got the UConn shirts and did the classic throw the shirts into the crowd. A Bobcat Prowl staff member caught a shirt and decided to gift it to Tayson getting a major thank you to the Prowl Staff in return. 

Even with Bueckers’ return being the highlight of Friday’s game, freshman Azzi Fudd led with 19 points in UConn’s most all-around dominating win of the season. Aaliyah Edwards followed Fudd with 16 points and seven rebounds. Three other Huskies finished with double-figures while Evina Westbrook tied her career-high with 10 assists.

Overall UConn continued to crush their opponent in the final quarter, winning the game by 55 points, with Piath Gabriel and Amari DeBerry getting some late-game action. No one was surprised that the Huskies gained a major lead against St. Johns. At the very end of the game, UConn took a team picture, thanked the team’s helpers who have been helping out the team for 4 years, and the team collectively threw foam basketballs into the howling crowd as they ran across the court to the girl’s locker room entrance.