Another stat-sheet filler from Paige pushes UConn women’s basketball past Providence 86-53 and into Big East semis

Paige Bueckers advocated for teammate Aaliyah Edwards to win the Big East Player of the Year award, but the UConn women’s basketball star proved herself more than deserving of the honor with a 29-point performance against Providence in the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

Bueckers led top-seeded UConn to an 86-53 win over the No. 9 Friars at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament, and the Huskies will advance to face No. 5 Marquette, a 50-48 winner over No. 4 Villanova, in the semifinals Sunday.

By the end of the first quarter against Providence, Bueckers already had 11 points. She finished shooting 10-for-23 from the field and 5-for-10 from 3-point range, her best outside percentage .

She came one point short of her fifth 30-point game of the season and third in the last two weeks. The Huskies guard was just as impactful down the stat sheet, also logging team-highs with six assists, nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

UConn Huskies guard Nika Muhl (10) tips over Providence Friars forward Olivia Olsen (31) while fighting for a loose ball in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal game at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, March 9, 2024. UConn led at the half, 38-28. Photo by Cloe Poisson/Special to the Courant


UConn Huskies guard Nika Muhl (10) tips over Providence Friars forward Olivia Olsen (31) while fighting for a loose ball in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal game at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, March 9, 2024. UConn led at the half, 38-28. Photo by Cloe Poisson/Special to the Courant

“Paige spends a lot of time preparing for these moments. She’s very much invested in the game … and she believes in herself,” coach Geno Auriemma said. “She expects to conquer every situation.

Yes, it’s talent. Yes, it’s preparation and putting the time in, but there’s nothing that can replace the belief you have in yourself that you were born for this.”

Providence led by as many as four points in the opening quarter, helped by four Huskies turnovers in the first five minutes, but UConn responded with a 23-6 run that put it up by 13 after the first quarter.

Turnovers again allowed the Friars to stay in the game as the Huskies gave up 12 before halftime though also creating 11 of their own. They ultimately outscored Providence with 21 points off of turnovers to the Friars’ 12.

UConn Huskies guard Paige Bueckers (5) shoots over Providence Friars guard Laryn Edwards (99) in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal game at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, March 9, 2024. UConn led at the half, 38-28. Photo by Cloe Poisson/Special to the Courant

UConn Huskies guard Paige Bueckers (5) shoots over Providence Friars guard Laryn Edwards (99) in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal game at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, March 9, 2024. UConn led at the half, 38-28. Photo by Cloe Poisson/Special to the Courant

Meanwhile, Edwards battled intense physicality from Providence’s post players all afternoon, and it showed in her eight trips to the free throw line.

The senior eventually exited the floor bleeding in the third quarter after taking an elbow to the face while chasing after a rebound and did not return due to a nose injury. She recorded 12 points and six rebounds in just 24 minutes on the court.

Auriemma said that Edwards will be evaluated by team doctors postgame, and her status for the rest of the Big East Tournament is day-to-day. If she is unavailable Sunday, the Huskies will likely have just seven players available with Amari DeBerry still in concussion protocol.

“It’s just been numbing for us to the point where there really wasn’t much that you could say other that, ‘This is it. This is what we’ve got,’” Auriemma said.

“We talked a lot about how these young guys have to grow up and they’d have to grow up fast, and they did. Sometimes you’re put in a situation where you have no choice, which I kind of love. That brings out the best in all of us.”

The second quarter was an offensive disaster for both teams with nearly five scoreless minutes between them before Providence guard Grace Efosa finished a layup right before the halftime buzzer.


The Huskies went from shooting above 70% across the board in the first quarter to 54% from the field and 50% from 3-point range in the second, and they were outscored 15-12 by the Friars heading into halftime.

Bueckers’ offensive production didn’t cool off, even without Edwards to run the two-man game that has fueled the Huskies as of late.

She scored 11 points in the third quarter, and freshman KK Arnold also stepped up as a shooting threat to finish with 17 points on 50% shooting from 3-point range while logging five rebounds and five assists. Ashlynn Shade added 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting, and Nika Muhl drained her first 3-pointer of the game in the fourth quarter.

“KK is able to have that kind of impact on our team. There’s an attitude or something about her that’s somewhat infectious and galvanizing.” Auriemma said.

“When you get somebody like that who makes a big play at the defensive end and then comes down and makes a big play at the offensive end, you can see the entire team get lifted.

UConn Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma and associate head coach Chris Dailey watch as team trainer Janelle Francisco tends to UConn Huskies forward Aaliyah Edwards after she got elbowed in the nose by a Providence player in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal game at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, March 9, 2024. Edwards was out for the rest of the game. UConn won, 86-53. Photo by Cloe Poisson/Special to the Courant

You’re always worried about your freshmen and how they’re going to behave their first time in this environment, and she really was tremendous today in every facet of the game.”

Redshirt freshman Ice Brady saw extended playing time in place of Edwards, appearing for more than 27 minutes for the first time in her career.

It took her a quarter to settle in, but the 6-3 forward finished 3-for-4 from the field with eight points, three rebounds, a block and a steal. She also avoided fouling out despite picking up her fourth with more than five minutes left in the game.

“Once Aaliyah got hurt, I think a lightbulb went off (for Brady). She looked around and went, there is no other option.

I’m the only option,” Auriemma said. “I wish she would treat herself like that more often and play with that kind of mindset.

Certainly we’re going to need her now depending on what happens with Aaliyah, and there’s a learning curve playing college basketball — certainly to playing at UConn. Some kids get it right away, and others it takes a little bit of time.

I think she grew up a little bit today, and hopefully it carries over to tomorrow.”





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