Aaliyah Edwards expected to be 100% for NCAA Tournament opener

After missing almost the entire Big East Tournament with a broken nose, Aaliyah Edwards will be back on the floor when UConn opens the NCAA Tournament against Jackson State next weekend.

“It was just a matter of letting everything calm down so that [the mask] fit and she was comfortable enough breathing,” Geno Auriemma said. “So she’s practiced a couple of days and we would expect that she will be 100 percent come this weekend.”

That means “Masked Aaliyah” will be making her return. The forward played all of last season with a face mask after breaking her nose and thrived, earning AP and USBWA Third Team All-American honors.

“Luckily, there was a mask on hand — hers,” Auriemma joked.

“I had to dust it off a little, cobwebs and stuff,” Edwards added about her mask. “I still kept it, which is a good thing.”

Edwards noted she wouldn’t be comfortable returning unless she felt completely comfortable doing so — which she does. It’ll just take a little bit of time for her to get used to playing with the mask again.

“It just sucks to have this happen this time of the year. Last time it was preseason,” she explained.

Edwards’ teammates aren’t worried.

“Seeing her in practice and the way she embraces that alter ego, I would say has been just reminding me of last year and the way she played,” Nika Mühl said. “I mean — don’t get me wrong — this year she was playing even better. So when you combine the two, I don’t know what we’re gonna get, but it’s gonna be amazing.”

Last season, Mühl accidentally broke Edwards’ nose with a stray arm. It ended up working out in the end — at least according to Mühl.

“I’m glad that my arm prepared her for this moment right now,” she joked.

DeBerry done for the year

The injury news isn’t all good for UConn. Junior forward Amari DeBerry’s season is over according to Auriemma. She had missed the last four games with a concussion.

“Amari won’t be practicing. She won’t be available for the tournament,” Auriemma said. “The entire tournament.”

DeBerry hadn’t cracked the Huskies’ rotation this season even with the injuries. She played in just 23 of their 31 games before her injury, averaging just 4.5 minutes per game in those contests.

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