UConn women’s basketball freshman Azzi Fudd limited by illness in loss to South Carolina

Photo of Paul Doyle
UConn’s Azzi Fudd of the Connecticut Huskies tries to dribble to the basket while defended by South Carolina’s Zia Cooke during Sunday’s national championship game. Fudd was limited to just 17 minutes becasuse of an illness.

UConn’s Azzi Fudd of the Connecticut Huskies tries to dribble to the basket while defended by South Carolina’s Zia Cooke during Sunday’s national championship game. Fudd was limited to just 17 minutes becasuse of an illness.

C. Morgan Engel / NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Injuries and illnesses have been the mark of the UConn women’s basketball season and the theme continued until the final game.

Freshman Azzi Fudd, one of the team’s best offensive players, felt sick with a stomach bug Saturday night. She woke up not feeling well Sunday and missed the team’s morning shootaround.

Fudd was determined to play in the national title game. She was in the starting lineup, but proved to be a non-factor in the 64-49 loss to South Carolina at Target Center.

“She didn’t feel well (Saturday night), so we knew it was going to be iffy,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “Obviously it was just one more thing that — throw it on top of all the other things. As I said, maybe it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. South Carolina was that good. You’ve got to win with what you have.”

Fudd was limited to five minutes in the first half. She did not take a shot in the first half as UConn trailed 35-27 at the break.

She started the second half and was on the floor as South Carolina began the third quarter with a 9-0 run. Fudd played five minutes of the third quarter, missing two shots including a 3-pointer.

Fudd returned to the game 2:05 into the fourth quarter and hit her first shot — a 3-pointer — with 4:08 remaining in the game.

Overall, she had three points in 17 minutes.

The No. 1 recruit in the Class of 2021, Fudd missed 11 games with a foot injury earlier this season. She has averaged 12.5 points and was 57 of 133 (42.9%) from 3-point range. She has averaged 28.5 minutes this season.

Fudd had eight points in the national semifinal win over Stanford. In the double-overtime win over NC State in the Bridgeport Regional final, Fudd had 19 points and played 49 minutes.

Before Sunday, she was averaging 13 points in the NCAA Tournament — third on the team behind Paige Bueckers and Christyn Williams.

Fudd’s illness was not the only issue of the night. Auriemma said Olivia Nelson-Ododa aggravated her groin against Stanford and was wrapped for the game.

Nelson-Ododa missed three games with a groin injury during the season. The senior had four points and two rebounds in 24 minutes against South Carolina.

“It just didn’t stop all year long,” Auriemma said. “I don’t think any of those two things would have mattered the way South Carolina played, but it was just one thing after another after another after another.

“I think it was a remarkable effort by them to stay together as well as they did throughout the entire year, and to be in this game.”

Senior Evina Westbrook rolled her ankle late in the first half and was hobbling throughout the second half. She had seven points on 3 for 10 shooting in 19 minutes.

Westbrook averaged 9.0 points before Sunday and is one of two player — Aaliyah Edwards is the other — to play in every game. She averaged 27.7 minutes.

Against South Carolina, the 6-foot Westbrook was sometimes tasked with guarding the 6-foot-5 Aliyah Boston.

“I wasn’t really thinking about it,” Westbrook said of her ankle injury. “I know I was limping a little bit, but it was the last game of the season, so whether I rolled it, broke it, I was going to try to play regardless.”

paul.doyle@hearstmediact.com