ELMONT, N.Y. - UConn women's basketball sophomore Azzi Fudd returned for the No. 4 Huskies on Wednesday night against St. John's after missing the previous eight games with a right knee injury, helping her team to a 82-52 victory at UBS Arena.
Head coach Geno Auriemma was also back on the bench Wednesday after missing the Huskies' previous two games because he was ill.
Fudd played 20 minutes and scored 14 points on 6-of-11 shooting, including 2-of-4 from 3-point range. She said the discussions surrounding her return ramped up last week, but that because her knee injury was more serious than the issue she dealt with in her foot as a freshman, she wanted to make sure she was "really ready."
"I didn't rush into it," Fudd said. "I let my body get back into things at its own pace."
Fudd had an expected recovery timeline of three to six weeks after suffering the injury Dec. 4 in the first quarter against Notre Dame. UConn went 7-1 in her absence, losing to Maryland and also falling to the Irish when she was unable to play in the second half.
The 5-foot-11 guard led the team in scoring to start the season, averaging 20.6 points on 53.3% shooting (42.6% from 3) and was an early candidate for national player of the year.
"It sucked," Fudd said of the injury. "Any injury for anyone, it's always the worst. Just having to sit on the side for so long and having to watch everyone with the injuries we've been dealing with, having to watch our team go through these ups and downs and knowing that I can't be on the court helping them has been worse. So I'm just really happy to be back on the floor."
Huskies fans were onto the possibility of Fudd's return earlier Wednesday when the program posted on social media a photo of her from shootaround sporting her trademark set of gameday braids. In previous games where she warmed up but didn't play, she wore a bun.
"That's funny," Fudd said of the fan sleuthing, "and they were right."
Fudd came off the bench Wednesday, making her first 3-point attempt while also finding success as the game progressed in scoring inside. She has scored at least 14 points in each game she has appeared in this season, aside from the Notre Dame contest (0 points) in which she got hurt.
"I still feel a second off on our offenses and stuff," Fudd said. "I have been out for a while, so I felt like I did a good job of shaking the rust off. But I know that my reaction time, all that will get better."
UConn associate head coach Chris Dailey, who did postgame media in place of Auriemma, said that if someone watched the game not knowing Fudd had been out for more than a month, they probably wouldn't have been able to tell, not just because of how she shot but how she moved, passed and defended.
The Huskies have been decimated by injuries since the preseason, when 2020-21 national player of the year Paige Bueckers and freshman Ice Brady were ruled out for the 2022-23 campaign with an ACL tear and a dislocated patella, respectively.
All but two players on the roster have missed a game with an injury, illness or travel issue.
Junior Aaliyah Edwards suffered an ankle injury and freshman Ayanna Patterson suffered a concussion last week against Xavier, resulting in the Huskies not having the required seven players to play Sunday against DePaul and forcing the Big East to postpone the game.
While UConn got back Edwards on Wednesday, sophomore Caroline Ducharme and Patterson remain in the concussion protocol.
The Huskies found out Auriemma was returning when he got on the bus Tuesday ahead of their trip to New York.
"It felt like a month," quipped Dailey of Auriemma's recent absence. "It really felt longer than a week [that he was gone]."
He also missed two games while sick in December. The 68-year-old Hall of Famer is also grieving the death of his 91-year-old mother in early December.
"I just wanted to make sure that he was in a good place and that he should come back and that he was ready to come back," Dailey said. "He assured me and everyone else that he was."