As the confetti flew down from the ceiling at Mohegan Sun Arena and the UConn Huskies celebrated their 22nd Big East Tournament championship, Geno Auriemma made sure that he distinguished the victory.

When the wins have stacked up to the degree they have for the Hall of Famer, who earned his 1,209th victory on Monday and is one of three coaches (Mike Krzyzewski, Tara VanDerveer) with at least 1,200 victories, it’s easy for them to be stacked together and almost taken for granted.

But when you’ve had to deal with what Auriemma’s program has dealt with over the last three seasons — and this weekend in particular — it makes it that much more rewarding.

The Huskies, who were down to just seven players for the final two games of the conference tournament due to Aaliyah Edwards‘ nose injury suffered in Saturday’s quarterfinal win over Providence, showed their championship DNA with 11 unanswered points to start the game in what turned into a 78-42 rout over 6-seed Georgetown in Monday’s Big East championship game.

No Azzi Fudd. No Aubrey Griffin. No Caroline Ducharme. No Edwards. And yet, Connecticut completed a 21-0 run through Big East competition this season, beating every single conference opponent by at least 20 points.

“We’re going to celebrate this one,” Auriemma said following his team’s 29th win this season and ninth in a row. “The resilience of this team is remarkable. They inspire me to be better for them.” 

Here are four takeaways from the Huskies’ Big East championship game win over the Hoyas: 

1. Paige Bueckers adds to her legacy of greatness, elevating her game even more with Edwards out.

If Caitlin Clark is the best player in women’s college basketball, there’s absolutely no denying who is second in the country right now. The run UConn’s superstar guard just went on in the last 72 hours is as strong of a three-game stretch as you’ll ever see. 

Bueckers, who announced she would return for a fifth season after missing all of last year due to a torn ACL, was outstanding night in and night out at Mohegan Sun. In the championship game, she set the tone from the start, totaling 27 points, four rebounds, three assists, three steals and five blocks when it was all said and done.

Bueckers scored at least 27 in all three games en route to winning the crown, combining for 83 points, four shy of the three-game scoring record in the Big East Tournament.

What’s going right for Bueckers? Well, first and foremost, she doesn’t get anywhere close to the credit she deserves for the defender that she’s become, as the 6-foot guard leads the team with 47 blocks on the season. Combine that with the fact her shot is in such great rhythm – she shot 12-for-24 from beyond the arc in the Big East Tournament – and she averaged 4.3 assists per game, Bueckers is the definition of a complete player.

“This is Paige at her best in totality,” said Auriemma, who said he even feels at times she’s not selfish enough with the ball. “Very few people have affected UConn basketball the way Paige has. She almost single-handedly took us to the Final Four and the national championship game, and it was only two years ago.” 

Auriemma said Bueckers realized she needed to step up for the Huskies when Edwards went down with a nose injury in the quarterfinal round, and she did just that.

Bueckers joined Villanova legend Shelly Pennefather (1986-87) and Huskies great Kara Wolters (1995-96) as the only players to ever win multiple Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. 

2. Ice Brady rose to the occasion for Connecticut.

With Edwards down, UConn was essentially limited to one — yes, ONE — post player: Ice Brady. After missing all of last season with a dislocated kneecap, the 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman has only averaged around 10-15 minutes per game this season. 

She played all 40 minutes the past two nights, and on Monday, Brady had arguably her finest hour. Delivering 13 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and as many steals while never coming off the floor once in the game, Brady was brilliant.

“We have a better player today than we did on Thursday,” Auriemma said of Brady, who averaged just 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game this season. “She put the work in before practice and after practice, and it has paid off.”

Senior guard Nika Muhl, who added eight points and a game-high nine assists in the victory, echoed Auriemma’s sentiment.

“I don’t know where we would be without Ice, especially this tournament,” Muhl said. “I’ve never seen that in my life from her.” 

While I would anticipate Edwards returning for the NCAA Tournament, Brady’s contributions could open up a different dimension to the Huskies’ offense from a spacing perspective. 

3. Nika Muhl inching closer toward history, and the Huskies’ case for a 2-seed.

With her nine-assist performance on Monday night, Muhl is set to break UConn’s all-time assists record. She passed Diana Taurasi’s mark of 648, and now with 651, she is eight shy of Moriah Jefferson’s program record.

Muhl will most certainly break it in the NCAA Tournament in Storrs, where the Huskies will host first and second-round action. The question: Will they be a No. 2 seed or a No. 3 seed in the tournament? They own a NET ranking of 2, and all five losses have come to teams ranked in the top 11 of the AP Poll. That strength of schedule and perfect mark in conference play has to have some weight.

4. The best thing you will see all day: Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed surprising Darnell Haney in the team locker room by telling him he was going to be named the Hoyas’ next head coach.

Haney, who had been the interim head coach this season following the passing of head coach Tasha Butts to cancer, inspired a team picked 10th in the Big East to win 22 games – their first 20-win season since 2011-12 – and advance to the Big East championship game for the first time in program history. After Butts, a former Tennessee Volunteers player under Pat Summitt, passed away, the idea that the Hoyas could piece this run together seemed unfathomable. They turned in one of the best stories in the country behind Kelsey Ransom and Graceann Bennett, who announced the news in the press conference. 

The Hoyas will likely get a bid in the Women’s Basketball Invitational Tournament, which is a new postseason alternate event to the NCAA Tournament, created by the NCAA.

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him at @John_Fanta.

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