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Pre-championship game preview: Louisville

GavinKeefe

Publication: theday.com

Published March 15. 2014 4:30PM   Updated March 15. 2014 4:34PM

A week ago, UConn suffered one of its worst losses in recent years at Louisville.

The Huskies get another shot at the Cardinals today with the American Athletic Conference Championship on the line as well as an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. Game time is 6 p.m. at the FedEx Forum.

“We’re right where we want to be,” junior DeAndre Daniels said. “We wanted to come into this tournament and end up playing them again. We’re happy.”

Here’s a pre-game preview:

-- Fifth-ranked Louisville has simply steamrolled its competition this week, winning by an average of 45 points. The Cardinals look unbeatable.

“It’s nice to be on a roll a little bit right now…,”Louisville’s Luke Hancock said. “We’re looking at every team like they’re one of the best teams in the country and we need to win.”

 -- Coach Kevin Ollie on today’s game: “It’s another 40-minute war and we’re ready to battle.”

 -- Louisville has won eight of the last nine games in the series. Six of those wins came by double figures.

UConn lost twice in the regular season – 76-64 inStorrson Jan. 18 and 81-48 last Saturday.

Junior Ryan Boatright said the Huskies learned from their mistakes.

“They played a great game inLouisvilleand we just played a terrible game,” Boatright said. “That’s why the score was like that. Not taking anything away from them, but we just played bad. We turned the ball over and missed a lot of shots. We didn’t execute on both ends of the floor and we didn’t stay together as a team.

“We went back to Storrsand regrouped and learned from our mistakes. We’re a whole another team.”

 -- The two programs met in the 2011 Big East tournament championship game, with winning UConn 69-66.

It was Louisville’s last loss in a conference tourney. The defending nation champion Cardinals have won 19 of their last 20 post-season games, including 11 straight. Their conference tourney winning streak stands at nine.

 -- Louisville coach Rick Pitino on tonight’s final: “We’re excited about it. We talk about it all season long, winning the regular season, winning the conference tournament and going on for a successful post-season. It’s very important to us.

“When you play for a championship, you need to do everything humanely possible to get it.”

 -- UConn must find a way to slow down Russ Smith. He’s averaging 29 points in two AAC tournament games.

Here’s what Shabazz Napier said about facing Smith: “I’m ready to play Louisville. I don’t see any match-up between me and him. I’m not here to play a one-on-one game. It’s a five-on-five game, so I need to be ready to play Louisville.”

 -- Louisville forward Montrezl Harrell is a match-up nightmare. He averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds in two games versus UConn this season.

 -- The Cardinals are ranked No. 1 in the country in scoring margin at 21.3 points.

 -- No. 19 UConn has a 6-3 record against ranked teams this season.

 -- The Huskies are 7-3 in conference championship games.

 -- Check back later for a post-game breakdown and video.

-- For regular game updates, follow me on Twitter @GavinKeefe

 

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