Uncasville, Conn — UConn got two key players back point guard Nika Mühl and forward Dorka Juhász were back from their respective injuries, which was enough for the No. 9 Huskies to slide past Florida State 85-77 at Mohegan Sun Arena in the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase.
Head coach Geno Auriemma did not make the short trip for Sunday’s game. UConn announced prior to the game that Auriemma would not coach the game after not feeling well during the team’s shoot around Sunday morning.
Associate head coach Chris Dailey stepped in for Auriemma and improved to 14-0 when at the helm.
“He’s OK. I think it’s flu-like symptoms right now and dehydration,” Dailey said of Auriemma after the game. “But you can’t discount that it’s been a heck of a week both from a playing standpoint and the number of games we’ve had and then to go through the emotions of losing his mom. So, I’m sure it’s a combination of a lot of things. But he’s feeling better and we’re looking forward to seeing him.”
UConn started the game red hot with Mühl and Juhasz back in the mix of the shooting spree.
The Huskies (8-2) opened on a 10-0 run (six points from Edwards) before Florida State scored its first bucket at the 6:02 mark in the first quarter. UConn’s defense made FSU rushed shots as they only made 3 of 21 field goal attempts.
At the break, the Huskies led by as much as 23 points and it looked the Seminoles were going to get blown out the gym. Edwards (18 points at the half) and Lopez Sénéchal were in double-figures, Mühl had nine assists and Juhasz had already tied her career-high in block shots.
Edwards led UConn with a career-high 26 points and was named the game’s MVP. She was followed by Lou Lopez Sénéchal with 23. In Juhász had a career-high five blocks with 15 points and a game-high nine boards. Mühl, who sat out last Sunday’s game due to suffering a concussion against Princeton, recorded 12 assists (her fifth double-figure assist game this season).
“I thought Aaliyah was terrific,” Dailey said. “It was great having Dorka back and Nika. But this is kinda the story of our season. We got two people back yesterday and then Inês (Bettencourt) sprained her ankle yesterday at practice and then today, Coach (Auriemma) isn’t feeling well. So, it’s just something that we’re used to at this point, and we just have to handle.”
UConn’s offense flowed better with Mühl back on the hardwood. At the break, the Huskies had 17 total assists to FSU’s eight total. And with Juhász back in the frontcourt, UConn had outscored the Seminoles 26-12 in the paint in the first 20 minutes.
In the second half, FSU (11-2) came out of the locker room with a whole different attitude. The Seminoles got with five points of the Huskies in the third quarter, Huskies got sloppy and repeatedly turned the ball over, giving up 10 points.
UConn turned the ball over 20 times in the game., marking their third-straight game with 20 or more, and gave up 21 total points.
“We can’t just give the ball up,” Dailey said. “We really need to concentrate on taking care of the basketball. It’s not anything that we have not concentrated on but it’s an important part. You don’t want to lose a game because you turn the ball over.”
FSU kept up the pressure and got within four of UConn early in the fourth quarter despite its leading scorer, freshman Ta’Niya Latson (24 points), fouling out at the 6:44-minute mark but the Huskies went to Edwards to close the game out for the game in the last few minutes of the contest.
UConn finished the game shooting 86 percent from the foul line.
The Huskies will host Seton Hall Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the XL Center at noon (SNY).