UConn women to face Duke in first road trip

Instead of spending the holiday together on campus, the Huskies will eat their turkey in downtown Portland, Ore. On the 30th floor of one of the city’s tallest buildings that overlooks the Rose City, the Columbia River, and Oregon’s mountainous backdrop.

Of course, that dinner will come a day after the team visits the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton (a suburb just outside of Portland) in a reception hosted by none other than the brand’s co-founder himself, Phil Knight.

The No. 3 Huskies will play their first road game of the season Friday when they face Duke in the first round of the Phil Knight Legacy Tournament at the University of Portland campus. UConn will face either Oregon State or No. 9 Iowa on Sunday in the final day of the tournament.
And despite coming off two straight top-10 wins at home; UConn coach Geno Auriemma is excited to see how his team stays focused while being challenged on the road.
You do want to see, are they mature enough to take care of themselves when you’re not around them, to handle their business in a mature way, to be able to stay level-headed, to keep their priorities straight and not get caught up in whatever else is going on here with this event,” Auriemma said. “So that’s why you like coming on these trips. You’re going to play good teams, and you’re going to be in an environment that’s going to challenge them a little bit.”

Friday will be UConn’s second game without graduate forward Dorka Juhász. Juhász (who is sitting out at least three games due to a broken thumb) did travel with the team to Oregon.
On Sunday, she was replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt junior Aubrey Griffin. The last-minute change to the frontcourt didn’t faze the Huskies as the duo of Griffin and Aaliyah Edwards combined for 18 of the team’s 36 total rebounds. However, Auriemma said that whoever fills that open starting spot could rotate depending on the team’s opponent.
The Blue Devils boast size (starting center Kennedy Brown is 6-foot-6) and tempo. They play at a fast pace that challenges offenses to keep with their depth in the backcourt.
“They really control the pace of the game, and they make the game go at a pace that’s good for them, which is fast,” Auriemma said. “I think your guards have to do a really good job of not getting caught up in how much you want to run, how much you want to push the tempo … with each game that we win, as I told the team, with each game that we win, I think playing the next one is going to be progressively harder.”

UConn’s offense arsenal continues to be highlighted by sophomore guard Azzi Fudd. Fudd is currently ranked second in the nation with 30.0 points per game. She’s scored 32 in both of UConn’s last two games. But even with Fudd doing her thing, the Huskies continue to look for others to step up to help lessen the burden when the other teams target her.
“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Auriemma said. Obviously you want Azzi to touch the ball as many possessions as possible, but other people are going to have to step up and they’re gonna have to make shots and there’s going to be a lot of opportunities for other people. …
And there’s a lot of things you can throw at her (Fudd). But you’re still gonna have to keep her from catching and shooting and she doesn’t need a lot of time to do that. And she doesn’t have to rely only on threes … I’m confident that she’s a good enough all-around player that it’s not gonna be easy to take her out of the game.”

Outside of Fudd, though the Huskies are still not at 100 percent strength in the backcourt.
Auriemma said that while Caroline Ducharme is back to full participation in practices, the sophomore is still working her way back to full strength after missing both the exhibition and UConn’s season opener due to neck stiffness. Ducharme played just five minutes against Texas last week and 11 minutes against NC State.
“I think she understands this is a long process and it’s going to be a little bit at a time,” Auriemma said. “…Every day in practice she’s doing a little bit more, a little bit more. And so far, the reaction has been good. She just has to get back into playing.”
Associate head coach Chris Dailey did not travel with the team to Oregon on Tuesday, but Auriemma said Dailey will be arriving on Thursday.
Dailey collapsed following the national anthem on Sunday ahead of UConn’s game against NC State. She was attended to by medical staff before leaving the court on a stretcher. Dailey was responsive and alert as she left the XL Center and was taken to UConn Health for an examination. She was released shortly after arriving.
“She’s on a flight tomorrow to get out here,” Auriemma said. “She stayed back just to make sure they checked everything out. It’s a long flight. So, they said you’re good to go.”

Maggie.Vanoni@hearstmediact.com @maggie_vanoni