UConn women's basketball's Edwards not worried about freshman wall

Published on Monday, 22 February 2021 19:45
Written by CARL ADAMEC


Aaliyah Edwards isn’t worried about the freshman wall.

The way the UConn women’s basketball team’s rookie forward is going, she’ll just run through it anyway.

Edwards recorded her first double-double of the year Saturday with 16 points and a season high 11 rebounds in the top-ranked Huskies’ 83-32 Big East rout of Xavier at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati.

“I just like being more competitive and aggressive offensively and defensively,” Edwards said. “Whether that’s rebounding, getting my teammates open, going off pick and roll action, I like being in rhythm and being in the flow of the offense and locking down on defense.”

The 6-foot-3 Canadian likes the way she’s playing in February and the Huskies love what they see.

That bodes well for March and, UConn hopes, for April.

In 18 games (she missed the Villanova game on Dec. 22 with an ankle injury) including two starts on the season, Edwards is averaging 9.7 points and 4.6 rebounds in 20.1 minutes per game. Her 67.6 field-goal percentage leads the Big East and would lead the nation if she had the necessary field goals/attempts to qualify. She had her season best of 22 points against St. John’s on Feb. 3 at Gampel Pavilion.

During UConn’s eight-game winning streak her numbers are 11.8 points on 68.9 percent shooting and 5.1 rebounds.

“Whether Aaliyah is in the starting lineup or coming off the bench, whether she is playing 25 minutes or 35 or 15, I want her to be the toughest kid on the floor,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “I want her to be the most aggressive player on the floor. I want her to run the floor harder than anybody else. I want her to be an impact player on every possession at both ends of the floor.

“I see no really why she can’t be that and then some from now until the end of the season.”

The Huskies (18-1, 15-0 Big East) clinched a share of the conference regular season title Saturday. By the time they hit the floor at Creighton on Thursday, they may have wrapped up the outright crown and the No. 1 seed for the Big East Tournament. Second-place Marquette hosts Creighton tonight and visits DePaul Wednesday and one loss by the Golden Eagles will put all the focus on the race for second.

UConn made quick work of Xavier, which was playing only its fourth game since New Year’s Day due to COVID-19 issues.

“We’re pretty locked in,” Edwards said. “I feel like we have a pretty good rhythm right now.”

Auriemma was able to use different combinations and one was again using Edwards alongside Olivia Nelson-Ododa.

For Edwards, she’s been effective with the 6-foot-5 center - the effort in the win over South Carolina two weeks ago stands out - but also when she’s been alone getting things done in the paint.

“It’s obviously a huge benefit to have two post players who can both play together, complement each other, and spell each other,” Auriemma said. “They have different skill sets so it’s something we obviously didn’t have last year, and you can see the difference that it’s made.

“I like that we can put them out there together and create a certain look or a certain way we want to play. Aaliyah can also be out there without Liv and still be able to give us what we need with a presence inside. I like it when they are out there together, and I like it when they are out there individually. The fact that we can mix and match depending upon the situation is something we haven’t had in awhile here.”

The days of former two-time All-American Gabby Williams at 5-11 - as great a defender as she was at UConn - trying to guard a 6-5 or taller post player are over - at least for a couple of years.

Edwards’ best days seem to be ahead.

“There’s not a time where I feel uncomfortable having Aaliyah on the floor,” Auriemma said. “She’d be a lot better but she gets in her own way sometimes. As she just plays more she gets better and better all the time.

“She’s been everything that I expected.”

Posted in Newington Town Crier, UConn on Monday, 22 February 2021 19:45. Updated: Monday, 22 February 2021 19:48.