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No. 10 UConn is rested and playing like it

Feb. 27—Last year when exhaustion set in, with a short bench due to injury, the UConn women's basketball team lost back-to-back games for the first time in more than 1,000 games, falling to South Carolina (Feb. 5) and Marquette (Feb. 8).

A short time later, the Huskies lost again to St. John's (Feb. 21).

Last week, UConn coach Geno Auriemma gave his team two days off in the midst of a week-long break prior to its next game and the Huskies responded with a 104-67 blitz of DePaul in Chicago.

UConn is 24-5 overall, 16-0 in the Big East Conference headed into Wednesday's game against Villanova at Gampel Pavilion (7 p.m., SNY). Paige Bueckers had 30 points and Aaliyah Edwards 23 points and 17 rebounds for the Huskies against DePaul, with Auriemma's team taking a 53-29 lead at halftime.

"I just think sometimes you have to get out of the gym and you have to get rid of the ball," Auriemma told reporters last week. "After a while, the ball starts to feel stale. You do something every day, every day, every day, everybody needs to just be able to step away from it for a little bit.

"I've always thought that was a good thing. When you come back, the ball feels really, really good in your hands."

He added with a laugh: "When you give your team two days off, it could go either way."

The Huskies, who have two regular-season games remaining, have already clinched the Big East championship and earned the top seed for the upcoming Big East tournament. After playing Villanova, UConn finishes its schedule Saturday at Providence.

UConn shot 57.6% in Sunday's game, including a 75% clip in the fourth quarter (9-for-12). Bueckers was 9-for-15 (11-for-13 from the foul line) and Edwards was 9-for-14.

Bueckers leads the team with 20.5 points per game. Edwards averages 18.2 points and 9.5 rebounds.

"When Aaliyah Edwards plays the way she played and when Paige plays the way she played, it's comforting to the rest of our players," Auriemma said in his postgame interview from DePaul. "They can just relax and play."

Villanova (17-10, 10-6) is led by 5-foot-9 guard Lucy Olsen with 23.6 points per game and 6-2 forward Christina Dalce with 10.1 rebounds. Olsen leads the Big East in scoring with UConn's Bueckers second.

UConn defeated Villanova 81-60 on Jan. 31.

v.fulkerson@theday.com