Last night at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in Toronto, the TMU Bold women’s basketball team hosted a much different opponent than usual. The number 17 ranked NCAA D1 UConn Huskies were in town for an exhibition game highlighting their star forward Aaliyah Edwards. A projected top five draft pick in the 2024 WNBA draft, Edwards was born in Kingston, Ontario and grew up playing basketball in Toronto.
All eyes on @AaliyahEdwards_ Kingston’s Very Own Aaliyah Edwards and the UConn Huskies will face off against the TMU Bold tomorrow night in Toronto— UNINTERRUPTED Canada (@UNCanada) December 19, 2023
The stands will be sold out with her family, friends, and Canadian basketball supporters #StriveForGreatness pic.twitter.com/gW5PQVS5gU
The 6’3” forward played her high school ball at Crestwood Prep in Toronto, gaining enough notoriety to be ranked the 23rd best player in her 2020 NCAA recruiting class. Committed to the University of Connecticut, Edwards was joining a squad highlighted by the number one ranked player in her class and another projected top five WNBA 2024 draft pick in Paige Bueckers. Together, the star duo led the Huskies to be the number one ranked women’s NCAA team in the 2021 AP rankings, followed up by a number five finish in the 2022 rankings. Through injuries and a tough start to the season, UConn has fallen to 17th in the current rankings, despite the draft stock of Edwards and Bueckers only continuing to grow as they lead their injury-depleted team.
On the other side of the ball, the TMU Bold have also been a top team in their own league in recent years. Led by head coach and member of the Canadian national women’s team coaching staff, Carly Clarke, the Bold won the 2022 USports national championship. With much of that team having moved on, this current Bold team looks much different than the
Their lone senior Kaillie Hall leads the way as the team’s primary ball handler and point of attack defender. Hall is also the lone Bold player with NCAA D1 experience, playing the 2019-20 season at Bowling Green State University before transferring to TMU. With the influx of new talent, the Bold have seen some freshman standouts. First year players Catrina Garvey and Hailey Franco-DeRyck have been huge for the Bold in their short time with the team. Garvey sits second on the squad in scoring and Franco-DeRyck leads the way in rebounding. A complete team effort every night has seen the Bold go undefeated (10-0) in the USports regular season and has landed them as the number 10 ranked team in Canada.
Coming into the game, it was understood that the matchup mattered vastly more for one team than the other. It was an exhibition game for TMU, as USports is currently in its Winter break, meanwhile UConn’s statistics would count towards their season output and the game counted as a regular season matchup, despite not picking up a win or loss for their record regardless of the outcome. From opening tip off, it was clear both teams were giving it their all, although it may be a lopsided affair.
UConn started the game tremendously hot, posting an 18-0 run in the opening quarter. As it was her homecoming game, the Huskies were feeding Aaliyah Edwards in the paint to start, despite her missing a few close shots and free throws that she typically makes. Nerves would be understood in this affair, as the entire sold out crowd and broadcast viewership was largely tuning in to watch the Canadian star on home soil.
Taking on such an opponent surely was nerve-racking as well, as TMU attempted and missed a lot of shots that the team tends to make during traditional USports play. A layup from rookie sensation Catrina Garvey opened the scoring for the Bold before another large run from the Huskies. TMU knocked down a three to end UConn’s 8-0 run, before the Huskies finished the quarter on a 13-0 run. With the score 39-5 after the first frame, UConn’s talent level was on full display and there was no slowing down in sight.
The second quarter saw much of the same, as UConn continued to dominate. TMU mustered only four points throughout the frame while UConn piled on another 29 to lead 68-9 at the half.
The quality of shooting stuck out like a sore thumb at the midway point, with TMU making only one of their eight attempts from deep and shootling less than 20% from the floor overall. To quite the contrary, UConn had knocked down their threes at a 70% clip and shot nearly 80% from the floor. Huskies head coach Geno Auriemma had little to adjust at halftime as he continued rolling out his entire lineup and giving the fans what they wanted with Edwards and Bueckers seeing the floor.
On the other hand, Carly Clarke had her work cut out for her squad as they trailed by nearly 60 points. However, whatever she preached in the locker room worked, as TMU came out of halftime with a chip on their shoulder and posted their best quarter of the game, on both sides of the ball
In the third, TMU limited UConn to their lowest scoring quarter to that point in the game as the Huskies managed only 27 points, while TMU nearly doubled their first half output with 17 points in the frame. Still missing a lot of the shots they typically make at the rim, the Bold shifted their offensive focus to getting their shooters open and hitting their threes. Despite the 19% three-point percentage on the night, TMU still attempted 36 threes in the game, making seven of them with the majority coming in the third quarter.
The final frame saw TMU continue with their 3&D game plan, however their shots did not continue to drop as the did in the third. Both sides took it easier in the fourth quarter, knowing that the nearly 70 point lead entering the frame was insurmountable. UConn still got downhill and finished at the rim, hitting the 100 point mark in the first few minutes of the quarter. The Huskies dribbled out the final possession of the game, ending in a 111-34 win.
The standout on UConn’s side was none other than the homecoming focus herself, Aaliyah Edwards. She led the game in scoring and rebounding, posting a 26-10-3 stat line on the night. The crowd was there to see her, and they let her know it. Edwards received a standing ovation both post-game and as she left the court, showing not only the love for women’s basketball in this country, but the love and support of our Canadian basketball stars.