--By Mike Gilpatrick
--Photo by Seth Spalding
Three words: Louisville beats UConn.
In a tournament preview, and behind a terrific all-around performance; the Cardinals were able to scrape by the juggernaut 78-69. Louisville won three quarters, and their second game against the Huskies in program history.
“This win felt great.” Louisville guard Asia Durr said after the game, “This is something that we’ve never done before, so it was a big win for us. I’m super-proud of our teammates out there.”
Connecticut is the powerhouse team in women’s basketball, and has been since Geno Auriemma took over. They’ve won 11 national championships, and have been to the Final Four 19 times since he took over.
Last year, Louisville trailed UConn 24-6 at the end of the first period. This year, the Cardinals were tied with the Huskies 21 each. Both teams went back and forth for the most part. Connecticut had a six-point run, but Louisville scored a pair of two-point baskets after.
Then, the Cardinals began to grab a lead in the second. Jaz Jones led off the period with a jumper 11-seconds into the period. UConn made a three, and Asia Durr hit three consecutive three-point baskets. It gave Louisville an 8-point lead with 7:24 until halftime. Then, the Huskies began to come back, and grabbed the 35-34 lead with 2:17 left. Dana Evans countered with a three, and Louisville led 40-38 at halftime.
The back and forth play continued in the third. Durr led off the period with a jumper. Then, Louisville gained a five-point lead when Bionca Dunham made a layup. The KFC Yum! Center erupted when Durr and Evans hit back-to-back three-point baskets. With five seconds left, Durr hit a jump-shot for her 21st point of the game, which gave Louisville a 58-51 lead entering the final quarter.
Connecticut scored the first basket of the fourth. It was a two from Napheesa Collier. Evans hit a three-pointer 1:47 later. It was the last score for either team for three minutes; when Asia Durr hit two free-throws for the largest Louisville lead of the game up to that point. Connecticut was forced to take bad shots and foul. The Cardinals maintained the lead, and came away with the win. They won the quarter 20-18. 11 points were scored off free-throws.
Durr led all scorers with 24 points. She was trailed by Evans' 20-point performance. The Cardinals shot 39.7 percent for the game, and out-rebounded Connecticut 46-40.
With the win, the 20-1 Cardinals should jump up to No. 2 in the AP Top 25 next week. They will also get multiple votes for first, and may even receive the honor. Auriemma mentioned about how this team may be a final four team in the tournament.
“We have a chance. There’s no doubt.” Walz said, “We’re 20-1, we just beat a very good UConn team. Saturday I think is going to be a big tell for us. Kylee Shook only played five minutes tonight, Mykasa played 10. In a game like this, there are basically five guards. Saturday, Clemson has more traditional post players. I’ve got to have her come ready to play, and you can’t be upset that you might not have played as much as you wanted to in this game.”
Louisville hits the road, and will take on Clemson on the road on Saturday, February 2nd. The Cardinals return home on Thursday, February 7th, at 7pm against Syracuse.