Third time a charm? Louisville tries to take down UConn in their third meeting of the season
The first time Connecticut and Louisville met this season the final score was 81-64. The second time they met, the Huskies beat the Cardinals again, and the final score was 68-48. So what will it take for Louisville to defeat UConn in the final of the inaugural American Athletic Conference women’s basketball tournament?
“We’re going to have to score more points,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz deadpanned, moments after his Cardinals survived a difficult semifinal against South Florida, 60-56. In a more serious vein, Walz did explain that he really did mean the team has to score more points.
“I personally think the only chance you’ve got to beat them is you have to put 70 (points) on the board yourself and I’m not sure they have allowed anybody to score 70 all year.” The fact is, no one has (Oregon scored 68, but UConn scored 114 in a run-and -shoot game).
On the other side, UConn coach Geno Auriemma talked about the difficulty in playing a team three times, especially twice in one week.
“The significance of tomorrow night (the championship game) as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned is probably huge for Louisville because everybody is talking about them being a number two seed at home,” said Auriemma . “Not only to win a conference championship but if they win they are definitely a number one seed, so it should be a great atmosphere.”
UConn had no trouble advancing to the final, defeating Cincinnati 72-42 in the quarterfinals and Rutgers 83-57 in the semifinals.
“UConn does so many great things and they are not always given the credit they deserve,” said Rutgers coach C.Vivian Stringer after their defeat. “They’re given nowhere near the kind of credit they deserve on the defensive side of it, and I say that because defense is not just the way you play, whether it’s in the zone or man-to-man, but in completion. They’re doing all the fundamental things they need to do and it’s easy (for them).”
UConn opened the game with a 25-4 run, and never looked back. All five starters scored in double figures for UConn against Rutgers, led by Breanna Stewart’s 22 points. In addition to 12 points, Bria Hartley contributed nine assists with no turnovers. Louisville is going to have to prevent the Huskies from runs like that to start the game.
“We know in order to beat them, we have to play a great game at the defensive end of the floor,” said Walz, “because they score the ball so well.”
Louisville rolled over Houston, 88-43 in the quarterfinals, before the tough game with South Florida today. The Cardinals needed a Shoni Schimmel hanging jump shot with under a minute to go to hold off the Bulls. Schimmel hit five three-pointers on her way to 17 points in the game. Asia Taylor scored eight points and had eleven rebounds, but center Sara Hammond, who is needed to play against UConn’s size, had trouble staying out of foul trouble in both games.
For UConn, they will continue to push tempo, and will try to take advantage of the lapses Louisville sometimes has against penetration. Moriah Jefferson and Bria Hartley excel at driving and kicking the ball out to three-point shooters like Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis.
Which team will take home the inaugural championship trophy for the American Athletic Conference? We will find out Monday night.