Why is Aaliyah Edwards wearing a mask? Explaining UConn star’s Final Four look

Aaliyah Edwards is not just a constant threat to score. The UConn women’s basketball star is also a stellar defender.

Just four players this season have more higher defensive win shares than Edwards at 3.3, per Sports Reference. She also has a 75.5 defensive rating and a 5.5 defensive box plus/minus, both of which land just outside the top 10 in Division I women’s college basketball.

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But Edwards isn’t just protective of the basket. She’s been protective of her face as well. Viewers of UConn games will see Edwards wearing a protective mask during her games, including Friday night, when the Huskies take on Iowa in the Final Four.

It is not entirely uncommon for basketball players to wear a face mask while playing, though that doesn’t mean it’s ever the most comfortable piece of equipment.

Why is Edwards wearing the mask? Here’s what you need to know.

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Why is Aaliyah Edwards wearing a mask?

Edwards has sustained a few too many hits to the face for comfort. She wore the mask throughout the 2022-23 season after breaking her nose in the preseason, she told The Kingston Whig-Standard in 2023.

“It was a love-hate relationship at first, but we got used to each other,” Edwards said. “The only issue I had was my peripheral vision, but I got better adjusting to it. I’m getting nose surgery soon, so I’ll be back without it.”

Edwards shed the mask for much of the 2023-24 season. But in the quarterfinal of the Big East Tournament against Providence, a defender’s elbow hit Edwards in the face, and she immediately fell to the floor.

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Edwards did not play again through the rest of the conference tournament, with coach Geno Auriemma describing her nose as “way, way broken,” according to CT Insider.

“It’s like déjà vu, here we go again,” Edwards said, per the CT Insider on March 19. “I love it. I love it. I love it just because it’s kind of like my thing, how I kind of impacted the game, but it’s also like kind of showing the haters to not take us lightly.”

Before the start of the NCAA Tournament, Edwards was feeling well again — but confirmed she’d be wearing a mask for the rest of the postseason.

“It’s going to make an appearance again. But moving forward, I’ve worn it before, so I’m more used to it now,” Edwards said on March 22. “But yeah, I’m not going to let it distract me or anything like that. I’m still the same player, same teammate. Just going to do what we do best, which is win and go out there and put out for UConn.”

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Aaliyah Edwards stats

The production from the star forward has hardly been impacted by wearing the mask. She averaged a career-best 32.5 minutes wearing the mask all season in 2022-23.

In four games wearing the mask in this year’s NCAA Tournament, she’s averaging 16.8 points per game, just under her season average of 17.6. She’s pursuing a national title with the Huskies before heading to the 2024 WNBA Draft in April.

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Here’s a look at her career stats at UConn.

Year Grade G-GS MPG FG-FGA (FG%) PPG RPG APG STL BLK
2020-21 FR 29-6 21.8 4.5-6.6 (68.9%) 10.7 5.7 0.9 1 1.0
2021-22 SO 36-26 24.9 3.4-6.5 (52.1%) 7.9 5.1 1.4 1.1 0.5
2022-23 JR 37-37 32.5 6.7-11.4 (58.9%) 16.6 9.0 2.4 1.2 1.1
2023-24 SR 36-36 30.2 7-11.8 (59.5%) 17.6 9.3 2 1.6 1.1
Career 138-105 27.7 5.5-9.2 (59.4%) 13.4 7.3 1.7 1.2 0.9

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