CHICAGO (AP) — UConn needed one more basket, and coach Geno Auriemma knew exactly where he wanted to go.
Caroline Ducharme drove inside for a tiebreaking layup with 1.5 seconds left, and the 10th-ranked Huskies topped Aneesah Morrow and DePaul 80-78 on Wednesday night in a wild matchup between two of the top teams in the Big East.
“You can come up with all the plays you want, but you’ve got to get the ball into people’s hands that you trust, who can make a bucket under pressure and there’s nobody better at going to the basket than Caroline,” Auriemma said.
Ducharme finished with 19 points as UConn (12-4, 7-0) earned its 20th straight win against DePaul in the series. Christyn Williams added 17 points after missing the previous three games because of COVID-19 protocols.
The teams were originally scheduled to play on Dec. 31, but the matchup was postponed because of COVID-19 issues with the Huskies. They were only able to get the game in because UConn's game against No. 1 South Carolina scheduled for Thursday night was called off so the Gamecocks could play an SEC game against Mississippi.
Finally on the court together, they put on quite a show.
Morrow had 30 points and 14 rebounds for DePaul (16-5, 8-2), shaking off some pain in her right knee that sent the freshman to the locker room in the third quarter. Sonya Morris scored 19 points, and Lexi Held and Darrione Rogers had 12 apiece.
“Just knowing that my teammates would need me, I had to push through,” Morrow said. “And then I'll just have to be in recovery later.”
After Morrow made two foul shots with 8.6 seconds left, Ducharme converted a layup to put the Huskies in front for good. Morrow got one more look, but shot wide on a 3-pointer from half-court.
“We had them. We really missed the opportunity,” Morris said. “So I think we're really just going to learn from it and grow from it individually and as a team."
UConn played without star guard Paige Bueckers, who missed her 10th straight game after hurting her left leg on Dec. 5 against Notre Dame. But Williams came back and heralded freshman Azzi Fudd scored 15 points in her first game since Nov. 22 after being sidelined by a right foot injury.
“Caroline got in some foul trouble, so if those two didn't play, there's no way that we could have won this game today,” Auriemma said.
Williams went 7 for 12 from the field while playing a little more than 32 minutes.
“I tried to hide it well, but I was a little winded today,” she said. “But it felt good really good to be back."
Fudd's 3-pointer lifted UConn to a 29-19 lead with 6:09 left in the second quarter. But DePaul closed the first half with a 21-2 run.
After Fudd connected, Held responded with a 3-pointer. Morrow scored inside and Rogers made consecutive 3s to put the Blue Demons in front. Morris' pullup jumper made it 40-31 at halftime.
DePaul shot 72.2% (13 for 18) in the second quarter, compared to 33.3% (4 for 12) for UConn. The Huskies also committed 10 turnovers in the first half.
Wearing a brace on her left knee, Bueckers cheered on her teammates from the sideline. She is expected back in mid-to-late February.
SHE SAID IT
“I'm really proud about my three steals. Did you see that?” a smiling Williams said to Auriemma.
UConn: Could be a work in progress for a while without Bueckers. But the return of Williams and Fudd should help.
DePaul: Bidding for its first win over UConn since Dec. 28, 1983, the Blue Demons put up an impressive fight. But they had some trouble with the Huskies' length and physicality.
UConn: At Providence on Sunday.
DePaul: Hosts St. John's on Friday night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap
More AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25