Like a straight A student the UConn women's basketbal team took the latest challenge in its quest for an undefeated season and a national championship and passed it with flying colors, knocking off the fourth ranked Louisville Cardinals 81-64 before a packed house at Gampel Pavilion on the Storrs campus Sunday afternoon. The Cardinals tested UConn, trailing the Huskies by eleven at the half, cutting the lead to seven with just over fifteen to go, before UConn outscored Louisville 14-5 over the next four minutes and cruised to their 25th win of the season.
The win left UConn (25-0, 12-0 AAC) in sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference while ending Louisville’s (23-2, 11-1 AAC) sixteen game win streak and dropping the Cardinals to second in the conference.
Playing for a cause
The game was nationally televised on ESPN and was one of the ten games that the conference teams will play for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. UConn will play at USF on February 16, in its second game as part of the Play4Kay.org events.
Stewart the Great
As for the game itself, Breanna Stewart (24 pts, 10 rbs, 6 asst) led five Huskies in double figures turning back Jeff Walz’s determined Louisville squad for much of the first 25 minutes of the game before breaking it open early in the second.
Bria Hartley (12 pts, 7 rbs) on the keys to UConn putting away Louisville early in the second half, “Transition. Getting the easy open buckets from running our offense and in transition. (Stewart) did a great job of hitting shots, so that helped us too. I think everything just had a better flow in the second half that allowed us to go on that run."
Stewart was sensational inside early, before dropping three point daggers on Louisville’s perimeter defense leaving the Cardinals with no answers for the conference Preseason Player of the Year.
Said Walz, “She's a special player. I told our players there is no question that she is the best player in the country in my opinion. What she does is when you have breakdowns, she makes you pay for them. We had two back-to-back situations when we cut (the lead) down to a five point game in the first half that we allowed her to catch it at the free throw line, turn and shoot.”
In a nutshell
UConn built a ten point lead midway through the first before Louisville hit UConn with a 7-0 run cutting the Huskies lead to 21-18 at the ten minute mark. Two UConn turnovers sandwiched a missed three point attempt by Antonita Slaughter (9 pts, 3 rbs) before the Cardinals got the ball back with another chance to tie the game, but a tough pass went off the hands of Shoni Schimmel (9 pts, 6 rbs) for a turnover. UConn followed with a 6-0 run pushing the lead back out to nine before Louisville crawled back to within five on an Emmonnie Henderson (4 pts) layup before Stewart dropped back to back threes on the Cardinals essentially ending the Cardinals upset bid. Louisville could get no closer than seven the rest of the way.
The game wasn’t without incident as Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis (13 pts, 4 rbs) took a hard fall on a driving layup just before the half. In a scene eerily similar to the right elbow injury she suffered in the Stanford game, KML was on the court clutching her left elbow before being escorted to the locker room. She returned after the half with a large black elbow brace but clearly played the second half with some discomfort.
Said UConn coach Geno Auriemma, “From what I have been able to see it is not as bad as what happened last time. We will know more, the doctor is looking at her right now. It is in a similar spot just a different elbow. We have a week off before we play again, therefore we will know more in a day or two.”
Next up: UConn has a week off before traveling to Florida to play at USF next Sunday at 4 p.m.