PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Dorka Juhasz had 19 points and 17 rebounds and Nika Muhl added 14 points as No. 5 UConn held off Providence 64-54 on Wednesday night.
Lou Lopez Senechal and Aubrey Griffin each finished with 13 points as the Huskies registered their 14th straight win. The quest for the 15th straight win will feature a rematch of last year’s national title game as UConn squares off against undefeated No. 1 South Carolina on Sunday.
“We’re already focusing on that game. It’s going to be an exciting challenge for us,” said Juhasz.
The Huskies (21-2, 13-0 Big East) shot 51% and held the Friars to 36%. UConn committed 20 turnovers, many of which helped Providence (13-11, 4-9) stay in the picture. Olivia Olsen led Providence with 13 points while Janai Crooms and Nariah Scott each had 11 points.
The Huskies shot 69% in the first quarter in building a 20-14 lead that likely would have been greater had UConn not turned the ball over six times. There were more turnover issues in the second quarter, yet UConn carried a 37-26 lead into halftime.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma found comfort in Juhasz and her ability to dominate inside while supplying some firepower from the outside.
“She’s trying really hard. Her effort is good,” said Auriemma. “She goes and rebounds the ball over here and over there. She doesn’t stand there and wait for a rebound to come to her.”
UConn appeared on the verge of seizing control after a layup from Lopez Senechal made it 45-30, but the underdog Friars made it interesting. Five straight points from Scott capped off a 9-0 run that forced UConn to call timeout with 1:23 left in the third quarter after Providence pulled to within six.
“We were getting stops and that was starting our offense,” said Providence coach Jim Crowley. “Really proud of the way our kids kept competing. It’s something we can build on heading into this stretch run.”
The nation’s leader in assists, Muhl handed out nine assists Wednesday night. She now has 192 assists on the season, good for a spot within the top 10 of the single-season program record.
“I would say the biggest growth in my game is listening to what I need to do so I can work on it even more,” said Muhl, who had five turnovers against the Friars. “That’s not a reflection of what I can do. I’m disappointed in that part of my performance, but we’ll learn from it.”
UConn: The busy stretch comes at a time when Auriemma only has eight healthy players. The walking wounded included two sophomore guards as Caroline Ducharme (concussion) and Azzi Fudd (right knee). Ducharme missed her 10th straight game Wednesday while Fudd sat out for the 14th time this season, spanning two stints. Between Ducharme and Fudd, the Huskies are seeking to fill 27 combined points each time they hit the court.
“I wish I could say, ‘Here’s the date.’ We could certainly use one or both of those guys, for sure,” said Auriemma.
Providence: The Friars fell to UConn for the 33rd consecutive time. The last time Providence got the better of the Huskies was the semifinals of the 1993 Big East Tournament. … Providence is now 1-3 against nationally ranked opponents this season.
UConn: Returns home for a Sunday showdown against top-ranked South Carolina. It will be the sixth game of the season against a Top 25 team.
Providence: Travels to Seton Hall on Saturday.
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