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UConn women’s basketball stays undefeated in Big East with 86-40 rout of Xavier

The UConn women’s basketball team can’t claim a wire-to-wire victory after trailing Xavier in the first quarter, but the Huskies were practically unstoppable until the final buzzer in their 86-40 win in Cincinnati on Wednesday night.

Xavier started the game making three of its first five field goals to lead UConn 6-4, but the dominant performance from the No. 15 Huskies (21-5, 130 Big East) began in earnest during a 20-0 run to end the first quarter. They held Xavier (1-21, 0-13) scoreless for a total of 13 minutes until midway through the second. Star guard Paige Bueckers scored 13 first-quarter points, matching Xavier’s total in the entire first half. She took a less-aggressive role as the game progressed but still finished with a team-high 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

The Huskies shut the Musketeers out of the paint entirely and didn’t allow a single point off of turnovers until the second half. UConn finished with a 30-0 advantage over Xavier on points in the paint and scored 29 off turnovers to the Musketeers’ 2. Led by 10 rebounds from All-American forward Aaliyah Edwards and 14 from redshirt freshman Ice Brady, the Huskies also out-rebounded Xavier 56-20.

Edwards also scored 16 points for her sixth double-double in the last seven games. She went 7-for-11 from the field and added two steals. KK Arnold helped lead UConn’s defensive effort with a team-high five steals.

UConn had another sluggish start coming out of halftime, but it didn’t take long for the Huskies to reestablish themselves. Bueckers took just three field goals attempts with zero points in the third quarter, but she logged five of her rebounds plus three assists. UConn ended the quarter on a 19-0 run, holding the Musketeers to just five points. Xavier’s only quarter with double-digit points was the fourth after coach Geno Auriemma had benched most of his starters.

Auriemma went to his bench rotation early and often against Xavier, providing some much-needed rest for the Huskies’ starting five after a grueling loss to No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday. Freshman Qadence Samuels had her first game with double-digit points since Dec. 20, finishing with 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes. Brady logged her first career double-double off the bench with 11 points shooting 5-for-5 from the field on top of her 14 boards. She also added three assists.

Sophomore guard Ines Bettencourt and junior forward Amari DeBerry saw above-average minutes, as both came into the Wednesday’s game averaging less than six. Bettencourt checked in for the first time with less than two minutes left in the first half to get Edwards a break, though it still took until there were seven minutes left in the game for DeBerry to make an appearance. Both went 0-for-2 to finish without points, but they added an assist apiece.