The UConn Women’s basketball team completed an interesting and extremely exhausting double-overtime victory over NC State in the regional final, as the players made a circle around Dorka Juhasz while celebrating in the midcourt.
Juhasz, shared tears and smiles with her teammates while having her injured left arm in a sling. While hugging her, they placed a “Final Four” hat on her head, as they made her the centre of their post-game party.
The players got shocked when they witnessed Juhasz falling to the court after driving to the basket. She suffered a gruesome injury while landing on her left arm. The crowd at the Total Mortgage Arena fell silent in disbelief. Juhasz rolled on her back wincing in pain while the teammates consoled her and immediately signalled for a trainer.
Senior Evina Westbrook was the final player to withdraw to the bench, crying as she sat among her teammates.
UConn coach Geno Auriemma stated, “They were very shaken up by that.” “It was one of those things that you’d seen on TV before, and it wasn’t beautiful.” They also had the opportunity to see it up close. They did, but I didn’t. As a result, they were rather upset about it. It was obvious in their expressions.”
The injury was described by Auriemma as a fracture and dislocation. When Juhász fell down with 6:19 left in the first half, UConn was leading NC State 25-18. She had to be assisted off the court and walked to the locker room in obvious discomfort.
Juhász returned to the bench in the third quarter after UConn led 34-28 at halftime. Paige Bueckers led the Huskies to victory with 27 points, including eight in the second overtime period.
The Huskies will compete in their 14th consecutive Final Four in Minnesota. Juhász, a graduate transfer from Ohio State, will not be a part of the team.
Juhász was active and productive when she entered the game Monday, despite just playing three minutes in a Sweet 16 win against Indiana on Saturday. In three minutes, she scored two points and two rebounds, and she was a defensive force, as UConn was a plus-five with her on the field.
“She didn’t play well the previous night and didn’t play at all, but in the (three) minutes she did play today, she was the game’s most important aspect,” Auriemma said. “Every defensive possession, every rebound possession, and every attacking possession had an influence on her.” So that happening at that precise moment is the reason the kid arrived here.”
Before Monday, Juhász had averaged 7.5 points and 5.8 rebounds in 31 games, including 15 starts. Auriemma’s work ethic has been praised, and she has become a beloved figure among her colleagues.
This is also her first NCAA Tournament appearance.
“Seeing a teammate fall down like that, especially in the middle of a game, is always difficult,” senior Christyn Williams said. “However, Coach gathered us together and basically told us that the most important thing we could do for her was to win the game and win it for her.” That was probably our mindset for the rest of the game.
“It was great to see her after the game,” says the player. She was wearing a sling, which was sad, but we simply hugged her and assured her that we would be there for her no matter what. We were absolutely ecstatic to be able to secure this victory for her.”
UConn has had to deal with a slew of ailments and illnesses this season. Only two of the team’s 12 players have participated in every game: Russell Westbrook and Aaliyah Edwards.
So this is a group that is used to dealing with hardship.
“With the way our season has gone so far, I feel like we were well prepared for this game and for anything like that to happen,” Williams said. “A lot of us have been injured at some time during the season, so we’ve learned to sub in and just keep rolling with the punches.” That is precisely what occurred today. Yes, we always manage to get things done.”
“We felt we were created for this moment,” freshman Azzi Fudd said. We went through everything this season to prepare for today, and I believe we accomplished exactly that; we stayed together and kept our cool.”
Juhász, a Hungarian native, is eligible to play again next season. Auriemma has stated that she informed him that she wishes to return.
Her loss will be felt in the near future. On Friday night, UConn will face reigning national champion Stanford, and Auriemma’s bench will be smaller.
“All of this is fine and dandy, but all of these gleaming moments — one gleaming moment that ain’t gleaming, and your season is gone,” Auriemma said. “That’s how delicate everything is, and that’s why you have to appreciate and enjoy everything.” It makes no difference to me how many of these we win. They’re still the same as the first.”