Connecticut’s season was briefly on hold until it reached the minimum amount of healthy players, and that’s a loss for everyone in sports.
The Huskies’ injury woes continued Thursday, when Aaliyah Edwards sat the second half of a 73-37 win over Xavier due to a reported foot injury. It seemed maybe it was purely out of precaution and Edwards would be ready to go the next time out.
It was a game situation eerily similar to Azzi Fudd’s knee injury. Fudd returned to the court after appearing to hyperextend her knee but later sat in what at the time was called precautionary. The school announced days later that she would miss three to six weeks.
About 24 hours after Edwards’ injury, UConn announced that not only was Edwards unable to go but also Ayanna Patterson was injured in Thursday’s game. Because UConn was below the Big East minimum of seven available scholarship players, the Sunday matchup with DePaul was postponed. UConn is also without head coach Geno Auriemma, who is stepping back to focus on his health. The Huskies have 12 rostered players of 15 available spots, and six are inactive.
The Huskies women’s basketball program has played myriad seasons worthy of books, documentaries and screenplays. But this one will stand out for the sheer amount of injuries that have been labeled as everything from bad luck and karma to poor game management and limited strength training. The oddities of their season, which includes associate head coach Chris Dailey fainting before a game and the death of Auriemma’s mother, must be taking a toll on players and staff.
The school announced Monday afternoon that the team’s game at St. John’s on Wednesday would be played as scheduled because the Huskies now have the minimum seven players.
“There’s really only one scenario,” UConn athletic director David Benedict said Saturday, via the Hartford Courant. “And that is, when do we get back to a place where we have seven available players that aren’t limited? Someone is not healthy if they can come back, but play limited minutes. So it’s up to the student-athletes, our athletic trainers and our medical team to tell us when they are healthy.”
Fudd is close to a return but surely won’t be able to play deep minutes as soon as she is cleared. Patterson’s injury has not been disclosed, though Benedict told CT Insider that she “got hit in the head.” If it’s a concussion, she could be out longer-term recovering. There is no further word on Edwards’ reported foot injury, which was referenced only as “injury” in UConn’s release.
A top-five school with the pedigree of UConn having to halt its season due to mounting injuries is a huge deal that could continue to spiral. The health of student-athletes is most paramount, and after that, there is concern about how more postponements and cancellations might be handled not only by the Big East but also by the NCAA tournament committee.
These are some of the best players in Division I and the winningest program in the sport going through an unprecedented time. This time, though, it’s rough waters rather than exciting, undefeated runs.
Winner: Katie Meier
When Haley and Hanna Cavinder announced they were transferring from Fresno State to Miami, the chatter was about whether it was actually for basketball or to continue to grow the brand they first cultivated with TikTok stardom.
Miami head coach Katie Meier faced questions about her star transfers’ commitments to basketball, which both she and teammates answered with aplomb.
“I really want people to understand they’re determined workers,” Meier said at media day in October. “Basketball is a very serious thing in their life. They don’t back down from any challenge. The No. 1 thing that they bring is that they never get outworked.”
Shocker to the wider world: They can indeed do both. The ACC is a tough schedule, and the Cavinder twins showed out in wins against then-No. 22 North Carolina 62-58 and then-No. 9 Virginia Tech 77-66.
Haley Cavinder had 25 points (11-of-24 FG, 4-of-8 3FG, 9-of-9 FT) in the two games. The starting guard has scored double digits in all five ACC contests. Hanna Cavinder, playing off the bench, scored nine points shooting 3-of-5 from 3 (3-of-6 overall) with three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes against the Tar Heels.
Miami (10-6, 3-2) travels to Georgia Tech and Wake Forest this week.
Winner: Angel Reese
Angel Reese continues to blow by and over opponents, this time to the tune of a 20-20 game. The LSU forward is the only Division I player to have one this season, recording 26 points and 28 rebounds in a 74-34 win against Texas A&M on Thursday. It’s a school record for rebounds.
“Angel Reese, obviously, does a yeoman's job on the boards,” Texas A&M coach Joni Taylor said. “She’s fun to watch. That’s a pro we’re watching right there.”
Reese played 33 minutes and was 8-of-15 overall, adding two blocks and two steals. Twelve of her rebounds were on the offensive end. Her tally neared the entire Texas A&M squad’s total of 37 rebounds. The Aggies had seven available players. They haven’t had more than eight in uniform since nine played in a loss Dec. 6.
Reese, who transferred from Maryland, has 15 double-doubles in as many games for LSU (16-0, 4-0). She ranks sixth in Division I in points (24.2) and first in rebounds (15.6). In SEC play, she’s averaging 23 PPG on 42.9% shooting, with 18.5 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 1.3 APG and 1 SPG.
LSU ranks first in scoring offense (89.7 PPG) and second defensively (49.9 PPG) behind South Carolina (44 PPG).
Winner: Lauren Fields’ inbound save
It was a team effort as Arizona edged Oregon 79-71 on Sunday in Pac-12 action: assists late by Shaina Pellington, buckets by Jade Loville and Cate Reese, and free throws by Pellington (4-of-4), Helena Pueyo (2-of-2) and Madison Conner (2-of-2 after a defensive rebound) in the final 40 seconds.
No play proved more crucial than senior guard Lauren Fields' saving the inbounds pass for the Wildcats with 23 seconds left in a two-point game. Oregon did a great job defensively of denying the inbound, and when Fields finally tossed it in, Ducks point guard Te-Hina Paopao tipped away with space for a game-tying bucket. Fields chased it down, corralled it and quickly passed it out of trouble to Pueyo on the other end of the court.
Oregon fouled, Pueyo made the free throws, and what could have been a tie game was a four-point Arizona lead, 75-71, which the Wildcats rode out for the win. Arizona (14-2, 4-1) hit 10 of its 20 3-point attempts and was 15-of-19 from the free-throw line. That made the difference, as Oregon (12-4, 3-2) was 7-of-22 from 3 and 6-of-9 from the line but shot 52.7% overall. Conner scored a team-high 16 points for the Wildcats off the bench and was 3-of-4 overall, including hitting all three 3-pointers and 7-of-7 from the line.
Loser: The messiness of the Dre’Una Edwards situation
The entire Dre’Una Edwards situation is a messy one that’s unfair to pinpoint on one person right now, but it might be how the pieces came out to the public that was the biggest loser this week.
Edwards, who hit the game-winning shot for Kentucky to upset No. 1 South Carolina in the 2022 SEC championship game, transferred to Baylor for the 2022-23 season. She had yet to play, and Bears head coach Nicki Collen told reporters earlier in the week that she would let Edwards update them on her status.
Edwards released a statement with the hashtag “FreeDree” explaining that she knew she would not be eligible immediately because she was not eligible for the one-time transfer exemption, as she had previously transferred from Utah. And she did not graduate from Kentucky, which eliminated the graduate transfer opportunity. In her statement, she said she is “continuing progress towards my degree” to meet the academic requirement, but the “next and final step” is for Kentucky head coach Kyra Elzy to sign off on a final waiver.
The Next spoke at length with Edwards, and hours later, Elzy released a statement saying that the team was asked to sign an NCAA No Participation Opportunity form to certify that the player would have been unable to play at Kentucky. There are six aspects that must be true for a coach to sign one, namely that Edwards would not have had the opportunity to be on the roster at Kentucky.
“That would not have been correct; Dre’Una would have had the opportunity to participate if she had stayed,” Elzy said in the statement. “Dre’Una transferred with the understanding that she would have to sit out unless she graduated, which she did not do.”
Elzy and Collen each spoke about the situation at their media availabilities this weekend. It stands, essentially, as this:
Elzy said Friday that compliance addressed the situation with her in March, and “everyone was clear what would happen: She would need to sit a year to play a year.” Elzy does not want to sign the waiver because it would not be “accurate and complete to the best of your knowledge,” as the waiver states.
Collen, who is in her second season at Baylor after coaching the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, said after a 75-62 win over Kansas on Saturday that Kentucky has “a right not to sign it” but called it “discouraging” and noted it’s “about these kids and their growth and opportunity.” She further explained the academic aspect and the conversation she had with Edwards ahead of the transfer.
“Dre and I had conversations: ‘Hey, it’s 100% easier for you to stay at Kentucky.’ ‘Coach, I want to be at Baylor.’ ‘OK, this is what it’s going to take. It’s not going to be easy. But worst-case scenario, you’re gonna sit a year to play a year, and we’re gonna get you ready for that one year.’”
A lot of tea in sports is spilled around social media sites, but often that tea is sipped behind closed doors first. There’s a lot of drama that doesn’t reach the public eye — or at least the details don’t. That this situation has means it's an ongoing issue that has reached its boiling point.
Loser: Utah exits undefeated teams chat earlier than expected
Utah (14-1, 3-1) exited the undefeated group chat Friday with a 77-67 loss to Colorado (13-3, 3-1), a team the Utes defeated 85-58 to open Pac-12 play in December.
That leaves No. 1 South Carolina (16-0, 4-0 SEC), Ohio State (17-0) and LSU (16-0) as the three remaining undefeated teams as of Monday afternoon. South Carolina's strength of schedule is ranked ninth by Massey, Ohio State is 12th, and LSU is 85th.
With conference play underway, any team could lose on almost any night. The Gamecocks were tested by Mississippi State 58-51 and face two familiar upset foes this week. Kentucky (8-8, 0-4) took the SEC tournament title from them, and Missouri (14-3, 3-1) was the only team to beat them in the ’21-22 regular season.
Ohio State (17-0, 6-0 Big Ten) was also in a close call against an improved Illinois (14-3, 4-2) squad that could've notched another upset but gave up a 17-point lead to lose 87-81. The Buckeyes are still without Jacy Sheldon and starter Madison Greene and have only Nebraska (10-6, 2-3) on the schedule for Saturday.
LSU (16-0, 4-0 SEC) handled Texas A&M and Kentucky with ease. Its week will consist of Missouri (14-3, 3-1) and Auburn (10-6, 0-4). South Carolina and LSU don’t meet until Feb. 12 in Columbia.
Kansas State (12-4, 1-2 Big 12) at Iowa State (10-3, 2-1), 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+
UConn (12-2, 6-0 Big East) at St. John’s (14-1, 5-1), 8 p.m. ET on SNY
NC State (13-3, 3-2 ACC) at Florida State (15-3, 4-1), 6 p.m. ET on ACCN
Maryland (13-3, 4-1 Big Ten) at Indiana (14-1, 4-1), 6:30 p.m. ET on BTN
LSU (16-0, 4-0 SEC) at Missouri (14-3, 3-1 SEC), 7 p.m. ET on SECN
Louisville (13-5, 4-1 ACC) at Virginia Tech (13-3, 3-3), 7 p.m. ET on ACCNX
Stanford (16-1, 4-0 Pac-12) at UCLA (14-2, 3-1), 11 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
Michigan State (10-6, 2-3 Big Ten) at Michigan (13-3, 3-2), 2 p.m. ET on B1G+
Kansas (12-2, 2-1 Big 12) at Oklahoma (12-2, 2-1), 3 p.m. ET on ESPN+
Missouri (14-3, 2-1 SEC) at South Carolina (16-0, 4-0), 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
Notre Dame (12-2, 3-1 ACC) at Syracuse (12-4, 3-2), 2 p.m. ET on ACCN
Arizona (14-2, 4-1 Pac-12) at Utah (14-1, 3-1), 2 p.m. ET on Pac-12 Networks
NC State (13-3, 3-2 ACC) at North Carolina (10-5, 1-3), 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
Iowa State (10-3, 2-1 Big 12) at Texas (11-5, 2-1), 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2
AP Top 25 Poll (as of Jan. 9)
1. South Carolina (16-0)
2. Stanford (16-1)
3. Ohio State (17-0)
4. UConn (13-2)
5. LSU (16-0)
6. Indiana (14-1)
7. Notre Dame (12-2)
8. UCLA (14-2)
9. Maryland (13-3)
10. Utah (14-1)
11. NC State (13-3)
12. Iowa (12-4)
13. Virginia Tech (13-3)
14. Arizona (14-2)
15. Iowa State (10-3)
16. Duke (14-1)
17. Michigan (13-3)
18. Baylor (12-3)
19. Oklahoma (12-2)
20. Gonzaga (16-2)
21. Oregon (12-4)
22. North Carolina (10-5)
23. Kansas (12-2)
24. Illinois (14-3)
25. Villanova (14-3)