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No. 13 Huskies continue to persevere at a full sprint, topping Providence 85-41

Jan. 10—HARTFORD — UConn coach Geno Auriemma doesn't necessarily think his team's defense, a fullcourt pressing blitz, is going to force a turnover every time down the floor.

But then there was Wednesday night before 10,210 fans at the XL Center when the 13th-ranked Huskies had four steals in 35 seconds, one by Ashlynn Shade, one by Aaliyah Edwards and two by KK Arnold, on the way to 28 Providence miscues that resulted in 33 points for UConn.

"I love those opportunities because that creates energy for us," said Arnold, a freshman, who led the charge with eight steals. "The bench as well, but on the court it gets us riled up and gets us going and into the game more and not getting lazy on defense."

Led by 17 points from Shade, Arnold's fellow freshman starting guard in a four-guard lineup that has now reeled off nine straight victories, UConn defeated Providence at an all-out sprint, 85-41.

The win was the culmination of a day when it was announced that 6-foot-1 graduate forward Aubrey Griffin would miss the remainder of the season due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, leaving the Huskies (13-3 overall, 5-0 Big East Conference) with just nine healthy players.

Arnold added 16 points for the Huskies, Paige Bueckers had 13 points, nine rebounds, five assists and four steals, Edwards had 12 points on 6-for-8 shooting and Nika Muhl 10 points and a season-high 13 assists.

"I thought the way we started the game, we wanted to obviously set a certain tone," Auriemma said. "I mean, that's how we gotta play with the lineup that we have. We don't really have any other choice than to play that way. This is the only way we can play.

"If we can make you maybe speed up a little bit, maybe take some time off the shot clock, anything that we can do to dictate the tempo of the game and today I thought that the beginning kind of set the tone for it."

UConn led 42-19 at halftime, scoring 20 points off 17 Providence turnovers, with Bueckers leading the way with four steals and Arnold and Edwards adding three each.

Providence turned the ball over 13 times in the first quarter, eight times in a span of 3 minutes, 22 seconds, with the Huskies immediately jumping to a 10-0 lead and leading 24-4 after a series of rapid-fire turnovers led to an 8-0 UConn run.

Shade paced the offense with 13 first-half points, hitting three 3-point field goals, and Muhl had 10 points. The Huskies then outscored Providence 31-13 in the third quarter.

Muhl drew laughter in the interview room when describing her first impression of Arnold, a 5-9 freshman guard from Germantown, Wisconsin, upon her arrival at UConn.

"I was like, 'I hate playing against players like her,'" Muhl said. "I hate it. So now I know how much everybody we play against hates it. Those pesty little defenders, super aggressive, super vocal, they're just always there. They're so annoying for the whole game. It's true. She's annoying. It's the worst type of player you can play."

UConn's Bueckers missed a 3-point field goal at the buzzer signifying halftime, finishing the half just 2-for-8 shooting, and pulled her white No. 5 jersey up over her head in frustration.

But like anything UConn has done this season, it was nothing a little perseverance — and a little defense — couldn't fix.

Bueckers made her first shot of the second half, just 1:05 into the third quarter, hitting a 3, and followed that with a soft jump shot and a finish off an inbounds play assisted by Muhl, connecting on her first three shots of the second half.

Edwards scored eight of 10 UConn points during one stretch in the third quarter and Auriemma emptied the bench in the fourth, with Ines Bettencourt finishing with six points and Amari DeBerry with four.

Brynn Farrell finished with 12 points for Providence (8-9, 2-2).

UConn next plays at 2 p.m. Saturday at St. John's.

Earlier in the day it was announced that Griffin, who injured her left knee during a game against Creighton on Jan. 3 in Omaha, Nebraska, as anticipated, would miss the rest of the season.

Griffin, who will have surgery at UConn Health at a later date, according to a press release, joins fellow Huskies Azzi Fudd, Jana El Alfy and Ayanna Patterson in being sidelined for the rest of the season. UConn is also missing Caroline Ducharme, out indefinitely with head and neck injuries.

It is the third straight season the Huskies have been impacted by serious injuries.

"It's tough," UConn's Bueckers said of the loss of Griffin, who was averaging 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, providing a spark off the bench. "Obviously, we felt we got into a rhythm with what we did and didn't have and then we have another main, key player go out.

"It sucks, mentally, physically, for her and for all of us, as well, but just like anything we've been thrown this season, we adjust quickly. We do what we have to do."

Auriemma mentioned during an interview session Tuesday that Griffin has another year of eligibility remaining, with injuries and a COVID year figured in, and didn't rule out her return.

v.fulkerson@theday.com