No. 5 UConn, without Auriemma, beats Xavier for 6th straight
CINCINNATI (AP) — Aubrey Griffin scored 19 points and injury-riddled UConn, playing without coach Geno Auriemma due to illness, beat Xavier 73-37 on Thursday night for its sixth straight victory.
Dorka Juhasz added 18 points for the fifth-ranked Huskies (13-2, 6-0 Big East), who finished the game with only seven available players when forward Aaliyah Edwards sustained a foot injury in the first half and did not return after halftime.
“We had enough people to finish the game, so that’s a good sign,” said associate head coach Chris Dailey, who’s filling in for Auriemma. “We’ve tried holy water. We’ve tried sage burning. None of them seem to work. It’s just something we have to deal with. Whoever we have, we feel like we have enough.”
Edwards has scored 20 or more points in seven games this season. She finished with four points and three assists on Thursday.
“She tweaked her ankle,” Dailey said. “We won’t know anything until tomorrow.”
Lou Lopez Senechal had 15 points for UConn, which has been ranked in the AP poll for 554 straight weeks.
UConn has been beset with injuries and illness this season. Former national player of the year Paige Bueckers and freshman Ice Brady are out for the season with knee injuries.
Leading scorer Azzi Fudd is expected to return shortly from a knee injury that has kept her on the bench since early December. She participated in warmups on Thursday as part of her rehab.
Fudd has missed eight games since injuring her knee against Notre Dame on Dec. 4.
Guard Caroline Ducharme missed her second consecutive game in concussion protocol.
Only three Huskies players have played in every game this season.
“We’d rather go through this now and be at full strength in February and March,” Dailey said. “Certainly looking at that as a positive.”
It was the fourth game Auriemma missed this season due to illness. The Hall of Fame coach also sat out Tuesday’s win at Butler. The school didn’t release a timetable for his return.
Dailey, who has been on Auriemma’s staff since 1985, is 17-0 when filling in for him.
“It’s been an extremely difficult month for me, and I’ve been feeling under the weather and run down,” Auriemma said in a statement. “I thought I was ready to return, but I need a little more time. I’m going to take a step back to focus on my health and will return when I feel ready.”
His 91-year-old mother, Marsiella Auriemma, died on Dec. 8.
“Not having Coach isn’t good, we miss him a lot,” Juhasz said. “But his health is the No. 1 priority. Having CD has been really good. She’s preparing us really well. We’re in good hands.”
UConn had a sloppy start but rolled after that.
Griffin had nine points, five rebounds and two steals in the first quarter as the Huskies built a 19-5 lead.
UConn, which leads the nation in field goal percentage, started the game 1 of 9, but finished the half 14 of 20 to take a 47-16 lead into halftime. Griffin scored 17 in the half.
Taylor Smith scored 13 points for Xavier (7-8, 0-6), which dropped its fifth straight.
“They just keep coming at you,” said Musketeers coach Melanie Moore. “For us, we only had 13 turnovers and forced 22. The second half was 26-21 (UConn). It’s small victories as we build our young program.”
UConn: Hosts DePaul on Sunday.
Xavier: At No. 24 St. John’s on Sunday.