Huskies fall out of top 10 for first time since 2005
UConn begins its holiday break ranked outside the Associated Press top 10 for the first time since the 200405 season.
The Huskies (6-3) fell to No. 11 in this week’s AP Top 25 poll, snapping the program’s 313-week streak of being ranked in the poll’s top 10. Undefeated South Carolina remains in the top spot, followed by Stanford and Louisville (which jumped up three spots after defeating UConn on Sunday) to round out the top three.
UConn, which began the season at No. 2, was ranked No. 7 last week. The Huskies have lost three games in their first nine games of the season for the first time since 2004-05.
The last time UConn was not ranked in the top 10 was March 7, 2005, when the Huskies were 13th.
Two of UConn’s three losses have come to ranked teams. First, it was a loss to top-ranked South Carolina in the Bahamas as the Huskies were outscored 16-3 in the fourth quarter. Two weeks ago, UConn fell to Georgia Tech in Atlanta when the Huskies played their first game without injured star Paige Bueckers.
That loss snapped the program’s 240-game win streak over unranked opponents. Georgia Tech, unranked when it beat UConn, is ranked 17th this week.
Sunday’s 69-64 loss to
then-No. 6 Louisville was the program’s first loss at Mohegan Sun Arena, breaking a 30-game win streak at the venue where they’ve won eight conference tournament titles.
“They’re just not very typical of Connecticut teams. This is not how we play. That’s kinda really difficult to deal with,” coach Geno Auriemma said following Sunday’s loss. “We needed more contributions from more people. We didn’t get them. You’re not gonna beat a really good team without that. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. I’m supposed to have the answers, but I don’t.”
The Huskies started the year with 14 players and are now down to eight available players, including just three guards, due to two transfers and four injuries.
Going into the team’s 10-day holiday break this week, the Hall of Fame coach is asking just one thing from his players: take a break from basketball.
“I mean it’s Christmas, right, it’s the holidays. So if you’re home worried about basketball, then you got your priorities switched,” Auriemma said Sunday. “For me, it’s the same message every year: Get away from school, go see Mom, get away from basketball, which is necessary. Put everything aside. It will still be here when you get back. These breaks sometimes aren’t long enough …
“There’s a lot more things to be worried about. The basketball will take care of itself. It’s basketball; it’s not life or death.” Unlike last year because of COVID-19, UConn players are getting the chance to return home for the holidays this season. Auriemma said some players left as early as Sunday night to fly home, including his international players (Nika Mühl from Croatia and Dorka Juhász from Hungary).
“I think this break after Sunday will do a lot of people a lot of good to get away and get recharged,” Auriemma said Friday after practice.
Players will return to Storrs after Christmas and immediately jump back into work.
While Bueckers (tibial plateau fracture, torn meniscus) won’t return until mid-to-late February, and junior Aubrey Griffin (back) remains without a return timeline, the team is expected to return both Azzi Fudd and Mühl to the lineup after the break.
Fudd has been out since UConn’s game at Seton Hall on Dec. 3 with a right foot injury. Auriemma told Hearst Connecticut Media that the injury, which has been ongoing since the summer, held her back during UConn’s loss to South Carolina the week previously, in which she missed her only shot attempt in 10 minutes on the court.
Mühl also is out with a right foot injury and has missed the past three games. She and Fudd have worn boots on their right feet during games while sitting on the sideline.
The Huskies host Marquette on Dec. 29 at the XL Center. It will be an immediate test for the Huskies with Marquette (8-3) being their toughest competition in the Big East last season (on March 1, UConn led by two at the half, 27-25).
UConn will play its final game of 2021 in Chicago against DePaul on Dec. 31 before entering a span of six games in 12 days.
This week’s holiday break will be the Huskies’ last full week off between games until the Big East Tournament in the first week of March.
The rest will be good for a team that is still adjusting to being thrown curveball after curveball this season with injuries, departures (Mir McLean became the second player this season to enter the transfer portal this past Monday, while Saylor Poffenbarger transferred in November) and losses.