UConn women's basketball to face frontcourt test in DePaul's Aneesah Morrow: 'Ready for anything'

It’ll be a battle in the paint on Monday when UConn women’s basketball hosts DePaul (7 p.m./SNY).

Blue Demon star forward Aneesah Morrow against Husky star forward Aaliyah Edwards.

A 6-foot-1 scoring machine versus a 6-3 all-around power threat.

The No. 5 Huskies will face their first frontcourt challenge in the Big East against DePaul. Monday’s matchup will also be their last prep before traveling to Knoxville and facing longtime rival Tennessee Thursday.

While DePaul has never beaten UConn in the Geno Auriemma era, the Blue Demons were a second away from knocking off the Huskies last January in Chicago had it not been for a last-second shot from then-freshman Caroline Ducharme.

"It’s DePaul and you don't have a script when you play DePaul," Auriemma said. "They come in and you just keep your eyes open because you have no idea what the hell's gonna happen. They could try to play a 125 to 120 game, or it can be 55 to 50. You gotta be ready for anything against those guys."

UConn was shorthanded last year at DePaul. It was without Paige Bueckers and Aubrey Griffin, while the game marked both Christyn Williams (missed three games due to COVID-19) and Azzi Fudd’s (missed 11 due to a foot injury) first games back.  

This year, the Huskies will again be shorthanded — this time without Ducharme.

The sophomore has missed the last six games due to a concussion. Because of the serious nature of concussions, she remains out without a timeline for return. UConn is also without Fudd (right knee), Bueckers and Ice Brady.

Freshman Ayanna Patterson is close to returning after she got concussed against Xavier on Jan. 5. Patterson was a game-time decision on Saturday against Butler but ultimately wasn’t available. She’s rejoined practice and participated in pregame warmups dressed in uniform for the past two games as part of her recovery.

But after winning its last 10-straight games, including playing the last two with just seven players, UConn has shown a lack of rotation doesn’t impact their skills out on the court. The Huskies have four games within 10 days to prove so.

"It’s gonna be a big test for us but we’re prepared," Edwards said. "And even though we don’t have our full team, we really just have to play to our strengths and to not let down and to just be fighters."

Now, back to Monday’s frontcourt matchup.

UConn has outscored its opponent in the paint in all but one game this year (Notre Dame scored more 46-16). Edwards and 6-5 Dorka Juhász hold down the post and lead the team in rebounds (Juhász 10.6 per game in 12 games, Edwards 9.4 per game in 19 games). And while Fudd is UConn’s leading scorer, Edwards is their active leading scorer with 16.9 points per game.

Due to also dealing with injuries, Morrow is DePaul’s biggest threat. She’s the lone Big East player to average double-digit rebounds (11.9) and points (25.2). And, like Edwards, Morrow is more than just a power forward. She’s also second in the conference with 2.6 steals per game.

"She could get 50 tomorrow and if we guard the hell out of her, maybe we could hold her to 35," Auriemma said about Morrow. "She's one of those kids in the country that is just really, really really hard to defend. She's skilled. She plays hard. She’s competitive. She’s a little bit edgy."

Last year, Edwards was held scoreless in eight minutes with just two rebounds in Chicago. Later in February, when the Huskies hosted DePaul on Feb. 11, she had 19 points in 30 minutes with six rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block.

The junior has grown even more this year.

She’s led UConn in scoring in seven of its last 11 games. Edwards was named the MVP of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament and the Basketball Hall of Fame Women’s Showcase. After not recording a double-double in her sophomore season, she’s had eight so far this year.

At Creighton on Dec. 28, she became the first Husky in over 12 years to record 20 rebounds in a single game.

So come Monday, Edwards will be ready for the challenge.

"(Edwards) plays so hard and she's so consistent that she's had an All-American-type season," Auriemma said. "And we're probably going to need her more than ever."

Maggie.Vanoni@hearstmediact.com  @maggie_vanoni